Preston City Council Gets Two Out Of Three For Homelessness Service

The homelessness service provided by Preston City Council is ‘good’ but with ‘uncertain’ prospects for further improvement, according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission.

On a scale of zero to three stars the Audit Commission inspection team gave the service a ‘good’ two-star rating because it is taking an effective approach to the prevention of homelessness in the area and providing a high standard of temporary accommodation and support.

There is also a strong approach to ensuring that housing advice is reaching all members of the community.

However, the service needs to do more to demonstrate that it is achieving value for money.

Paul Clarke, Audit Commission Lead Housing Inspector (North West), said: “Preston has successfully put initiatives in place to prevent homelessness at an early stage.

“Where homelessness cannot be avoided, the Council works effectively with partners to provide high quality temporary accommodation and meet any support needs.

“However, the council’s future strategic approach to homelessness has not been clearly agreed with partners.

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“Also, performance management is weak and capacity is stretched – making further improvement difficult to achieve.”

The report highlights some key strengths in the service including the following.

Effective housing advice and partnership working has contributed to a decrease in homelessness applications and acceptances.

A proactive approach to the prevention of homelessness, including: an effective ‘Sanctuary’ scheme for women facing domestic violence; a family mediation service; a private rented sector ‘bond’ scheme; and partnership work to prevent youth homelessness.

Outreach services are ensuring that housing advice is available to the different communities within the city.

All temporary accommodation is self-contained and secure, with good staffing cover and a wide range of facilities and activities for residents.

However, the report also highlights a number of issues which need to be tackled, including the following.

The council’s first Homelessness Strategy and action plan expired in 2006 and a new strategy has yet to be agreed and published.

There has been a weak approach to performance management, including a failure to regularly review and appraise the performance of staff.

To help the service improve, inspectors made a number of recommendations.

These include the following.

Consulting fully on the new Homelessness Strategy before publication, and ensuring that an effective action plan is in place.

Making sure that the service is achieving value for money by assessing unit costs and outcomes, and benchmarking these against other services.

Ensuring that staff development reviews, training needs assessments and supervision meetings are used to monitor performance and meet training needs.

Copies of the report are available from Preston City Council or on the Audit Commission website by clicking the link below.