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MEAM team to tackle root causes of homelessness

Dedicated coordinator will help vulnerable people

A NEW scheme designed to employ a co-ordinated approach to help tackle the root cause of homelessness has been launched in West Berkshire.

Substance abuse and mental ill health are often identified as major factors contributing to a life on the streets.

And earlier this month, West Berkshire was unveiled as a member of the Making Every Adult Matter (MEAM) project – a scheme which aims to offer joined-up thinking between a range of local agencies to provide help and support to those dealing with such issues.

West Berkshire Council, in partnership with Thames Valley Police, will be leading the project, working with charities, health professionals and other MEAM areas to offer effective support to vulnerable people with multiple needs.

West Berkshire’s executive member for housing and homelessness, Hilary Cole, said: “I’m pleased that we are part of the MEAM coalition.

“This is a great opportunity to reshape existing services alongside our partners to provide practical support that can make a real difference to our most vulnerable residents.

“I would like to thank our partners for the work they have done so far and for their ongoing commitment to this important and transformative project.”

West Berkshire is now one of only 25 local areas across England to be chosen to operate within the MEAM framework.

The scheme is funded through the Big Lottery Fund.

The council has now employed a MEAM co-ordinator, who will work with the 24 other MEAM areas to make changes to the services addressing the issues contributing to homelessness. 

They will also co-ordinate the council’s response to local individuals and work closely with those who need the joint support of the West Berkshire MEAM partners.

Newbury MP Richard Benyon said: “I am delighted that West Berkshire has been accepted into the next MEAM cohort.

“From an initial meeting in  March when I sat round a table with all our local agencies, both statutory and voluntary, to hear about the way the MEAM approach works, this seemed to be an innovative and joined-up way to try and engage with those extremely vulnerable individuals with multiple needs.

“This is an exciting step forward and I want to pay tribute to all our local organisations who have stepped up and committed themselves to work together on this.”

The MEAM project will be welcome in West Berkshire after council funding for mental health services and support for those affected by drug and alcohol abuse was cut significantly last year.

In 2016, the council reduced its budget for substance misuse support services by £71,000, while the Mental Health Supported Living Scheme saw its funding cut by £100,000.

The Edge, a service across West Berkshire that works with young people affected by drugs and alcohol problems, had its funding cut by £42,900.

However, West Berkshire Council spokeswoman Peta Stoddart-Compton said it would be “misleading and incorrect” to mention the council’s previous funding cuts when discussing MEAM.

“It is no secret that the council is under increasing financial pressure,” she said.

“However, MEAM provides a unique, stand-alone approach specifically targeted at reaching a particularly vulnerable group of rough sleepers that will benefit from the one to one support of the MEAM co-ordinator, who will guide them through processes that they may otherwise feel unable to cope with in order to help them to access what they need to improve their lives.”

She added: “The fact that the MEAM co-ordinator has been funded by multiple services and external partners, enabling them to contribute towards helping vulnerable people without the expense of funding a whole post, is very positive.

“It reflects both the financial necessity and the council’s commitment to reshaping existing services to ensure that the most vulnerable and hard to reach in our communities continue to get the help and support they need.” 

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Article comments

  • Numerate grumpy

    02/01/2018 - 11:11

    One laugh about the Ashes debacle has been the resurrection of some old sledges: 'Hey Tuffers (Phil Tufnell), lend us your brain, we're building an idiot'. Same applies to Peta S-C. How can all the previous funding cuts, over £200k listed, not have exacerbated the problem this MEAM initiative, welcome as it is, will address. WBC would do well to replace all their so-called spokespeople with just one person who could spout some sense. NY resolution for Mr Jones, get a grip man.

    Reply

  • SteveW

    02/01/2018 - 10:10

    "Substance abuse and mental ill health are often identified as major factors contributing to a life on the streets." Are they? Ill-informed opinion is often that homeless people are all 'druggies', 'alkies' and 'mentals' - though even a cursory examination of the issue would put substance abuse and mental ill health as effects as much as causes. What do Shelter say? http://england.shelter.org.uk/campaigns_/why_we_campaign/tackling_homelessness/What_causes_homelessness Structural causes of homelessness: unemployment poverty a lack of affordable housing housing policies the structure and administration of housing benefit wider policy developments, such as the closure of long-stay psychiatric hospitals How will one new post address those issues? How will it even keep up with increasing homelessness as a result of Universal Credit? The unpaid work of dedicated volunteers at the soup kitchen/shelter and at Loose Ends is worth more than any amount of overpaid 'co-ordinators'.

    Reply

    • Anothervoiceinwestberkshire

      02/01/2018 - 19:07

      Well said Steve. A well funded social housing and other support services are key. Volunteers do a great job but should not form the basis of the support available. Professional, central and local government funded services are what the vulnerable need.

      Reply