Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Street counts

May 18 2009
Denials of street count interference won‘t wash, says former outreach worker Sir, I have just read your street count article (Pavement 21), and am infuriated that some people are denying that counts are interfered with. For several years I participated in soup runs and was a member of an outreach team. One of the reasons I lost a job with one organisation was my complaints and remarks about street counts practices. The only real count is undertaken by The Simon Community. The organisation I worked for opened emergency beds for the night of the count, and TV rooms in hostels were used to keep people inside on the day. The night before the count, managers came out with us to make sure people would be not around on the following night. We had phone calls from other organisations to tell us how many 'extra' beds we could have for the night of the count. Street counts start at midnight; we would go out at 8pm for a couple of hours to ferry people into the 'extra' spaces. At the pre-count meeting, our manager told us how many people we could find and reminded us that our funding depended on our finding the 'correct number' of people. This abuse also extended to our use of Chain, the computer programme onto which we had to log clients. Part of the weekly team meetings would be devoted to how many people and actions we had logged, again with the reminder that the local authority funding us used the records to monitor how much work we were doing. When I contacted CHAIN about this, my manager warned me that I would lose my job if I persisted in objecting to the practice. I had no problem with my work being monitored, but objected strongly to being forced to log an action when all I had done was say hello to a client. I found another organisation who had not logged their actions with a client. When I challenged the worker, I was informed that his manager did not allow the team to log clients who were 'difficult'. 'Difficult' indicated individuals whose complex needs or just attitude meant it would take several months before they would or could accept assistance to help them move on off the streets. I told my management that I felt their role was to intercede and to educate the local funder about a lack of provision for clients with the aim, to hopefully, provide necessary services and not force clients to accept inadequate solutions. In several cases, individuals had been going round in circles for several years as a result of the lack for appropriate sustained services. This is all a result of funding for such work being provided by organisations with a political agenda and the lack of will to provide a service for this ignored section of our community. Funding must be used to full effect, but as the work is with individuals often with complex issues, setting targets at street level - when there is inadequate provision within housing, health and education - is ludicrous. Individuals require individual solutions, there is insufficient flexibility and provision in the system. Name supplied By email Dear Anon, Thank you for your letter. It was interesting to read confirmation of what so many people are saying. We're writing to MPs with this story, to see if we can take it further. Editor