Following extensive consultation, cabinet is set to approve changes to the housing advice service on 19 April which will build on the success of the city’s Youth Hub – a specialist homeless service for single young people under 25 years old. The council is reducing the number of Housing Advice Centres and pooling resources to create a similar centre of excellence for homelessness and housing advice for the over 25s.
Alongside this the council will also provide a one stop shop in partnership with Shelter at SIFA’s building in Allcocks Street, Digbeth, for vulnerable single homeless people with housing and benefits advice, support to find accommodation, welfare facilities such as food, showering facilities and clothing. They will also have access to onsite health and wellbeing services such as dentists, mental health assessments, chiropody and opticians.
Jim Crawshaw, Integrated Service Head Homeless and Pre-Tenancy Services, said: “The new centre will have staff who are able to provide advice and assistance on welfare benefits and debt to households in housing need. This will refocus the service, providing comprehensive support to homeless households from one central location. By having one centre we can also ensure a consistent service with more appointments and an improved level of service. We have had great success with our Youth Hub for the under 25s. This new centre will provide for the over 25s.
“Some people have raised concerns over accessibility, safety and capacity. We have listened to those concerns and will be enhancing access to phone advice and information on the council’s website to ensure households only travel the advice centre if absolutely necessary. We will also provide help with transport and make arrangements to conduct interviews in a safe location for households if they are unable to visit Newtown because of concerns like domestic violence.”
“In addition, we are also providing a one stop shop for vulnerable single homeless with people on hand to give advice, offer welfare facilities and access to healthcare.”
The changes to housing advice centres are part of a much wider, overarching strategy for all elements of Neighbourhood Advice and Information Services. Together the services will provide a homeless centre, four third sector advice hubs, two letting suites and a library with advice staff in ten locations across the city.
The integrated advice strategy, which went to Cabinet on March 22, has been led by a partnership of advice providers known as Gateway to Birmingham Advice Services (GBAS) – a partnership of 15 organisations providing advice services in the city (including the likes of the CAB, Freshwinds, Birmingham Settlement, Shelter, Age UK etc).
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