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.”