Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Doubts remain over building-based services

September 26 2009
Westminster Council‘s new strategy will see many street outreach teams cut
On July 1, Westminster Council's controversial Building Based Service (BBS) model was implemented. Aimed at shifting provision for rough sleepers away from the street and into buildings, the new strategy will see many street outreach teams disbanded as building-based services extend their opening hours. Rough sleepers will be signposted to building-based provision by police and council staff, including City Guardians.

The model of BBS was developed in the Vantagepoint report commissioned in 2003, which recommended a shift to building-based provision and the introduction of a single pan-Westminster Rapid Intervention Team (RIT). A signposting pilot was introduced this March and was attacked by some homeless charities, who fear that cutting back on outreach leaves some rough sleepers vulnerable.

A spokesperson for the council said the pilot "reinforced [the belief] that it makes good sense to have joined up services where staff working on the street know about local rough sleeper services and can pass on intelligence on the locations of vulnerable isolated rough sleepers," although under the council's scheme the number of specifically homeless-trained staff on the streets has been massively reduced. As one reader told this paper, "love or hate CAT workers, at least they were trained for what they did".

A spokesman for The Passage day centre in Victoria, one of the homeless charities working with Westminster to implement the shift to BBS, and funded by the council, said the shift will have a positive impact on homeless provision. "The agencies are committed to working positively in partnership with Westminster Council, the police and other agencies to ensure that numbers of rough sleepers continue to fall and that rough sleepers are linked into services more effectively," he said. But recent reports from rough sleepers themselves suggest that the move towards building-based provision is isolating some rough sleepers and driving others into neighbouring boroughs, with the BBS model being far from adequate for catering for the diverse needs of all Westminster's rough sleepers.

As other parts of the country, most recently Manchester, take a tougher line on the provision of street-based action for homeless, this strategy raises questions about the rationale behind BBS and whether it is really in our readers' best interest.