Extra winter beds opening for rough sleepers in York

People sleeping rough in York can safely bed down this winter as extra emergency beds are being offered again, whatever the weather, from 1 November 2019 until 28 February 2020.

Besides securing nearly £400,000 extra fund for additional outreach workers to give rough more intensive support especially around mental health, York goes above and beyond the national ‘severe weather scheme’. Regardless of whether it’s freezing or not, we make extra emergency beds available bringing the total up to 29 in the winter months: that’s 20 more beds than our current official number of nine rough sleepers in the city.

Five of the emergency beds have been created at a council hostel and are being supported by volunteers from the YES Below Zero scheme. Last year this provision supported 18 rough sleepers into private rented accommodation.

Also in 2018-19, the council resettled 58 former rough sleepers or single homeless people into permanent tenancies, and accommodated 66 households during a period of homelessness.

People leaving sleeping on the streets are placed in the city’s 101-bed supported accommodation schemes. Their dogs can also be brought into emergency accommodation as has been the case in York since 2000.

The people are offered support and education to help address any of the issues that may have contributed to them becoming homeless. This includes referral to services for mental health or substance misuse, and training for work and how to manage a lasting tenancy.

Once that stage is successfully underway, they are allocated space in the city’s 90 independent accommodation units before, hopefully, supporting them into either private or affordable fully-independent homes.

Councillor Denise Craghill, executive member for housing and safer neighbourhoods, said: “Rough sleeping has increased by 132% nationally since 2010 with only a small decrease of 6% nationally during 2018-19. We have secured nearly £400,000 funding for 2019/20 to explore new ways to prevent it, as sleeping on the street lowers life expectancy to 47 years.

“With our partners The Salvation Army, Changing Lives, Peasholme Charity, Restore, YES Below Zero, Carecent and KEY, we continue to offer all known people sleeping rough help to get off the street and into safer, more stable lifestyle, including extra support for people with mental health and substance misuse issues.

“Help is routinely offered to rough sleepers on the early morning walks undertaken several times a week when everyone is offered a bed.”

Charles Walters, of the YES Below Zero team, said: “We are looking forward to building on the solid start YES Below Zero made over the 2018/2019 winter season. The team of volunteers was encouraged by the significant number of positive outcomes.

“As we gear up to help contribute capacity to the emergency bed provision for this next winter season, we invite those who are interested in volunteering to contact us on atbarnett33@gmail.com.

  • To alert support services to a rough sleeper, please ring Street Link on 0300 500 0914.
  • Or, please join us encouraging people sleeping rough to go to The Salvation Army’s early intervention and prevention hub at 63 Lawrence Street, York YO10 3BU between 10am and 12 noon when they’ll be given support.
  • At night or the weekend, rough sleepers can call 01609 780780 for help.
  • To find out ways to donate and support people out of homelessness, please visit www.york.gov.uk/roughsleeping

“We want to stay in our home” say York seniors

The Council has released details of responses to a survey of elderly persons needs which it conducted earlier in the year.

Asked where they would like to see out their days, the majority said that they wished to remain in their existing home.

Some said that they would like to move to a smaller property.

There was little enthusiasm for placements in traditional retirement homes.

Most of the 406 respondents were owner occupiers.  The lowest response rate came from the Westfield ward (the City’s poorest) and he highest from the Guildhall Ward

Clearly location is an important factor for many older people. They want to be close to amenities and are increasingly reluctant to drive.

This need conflicts with current Council planning policies which have allocated land near Front Street Acomb – which has a full range of amenities – for family housing.

With developers reluctant to even build elderly persons homes the emphasis should be on providing easy to manage homes at sites like Lowfield, Front Street, Long Close Lane etc.

The report will be discussed next week click

No takers for Care Home contract at Lowfields

Care home site

According to a notice published earlier today, the York Council has received
no suitable tenders for the provision of a care home at its Lowfields site.

The Council has already invested heavily in providing infrastructure,
including roads, at the site. They promised a 30-month building timetable in  response to concerns expressed by residents in 2016 who feared that the nuisance caused by building works could drag on for a decade.

The failure to find a development partner for the care home, together with
delays on the communal housing section, means that there is no end in sight for the development work.

The delay  notice says, ” This item has been withdrawn because, following a tender process, officers have been unable to appoint a developer. Officers need to consult the market and consider the options before the Executive can make a decision”.

According to the Councils Elderly Care programme, which was last discussed in 2018, work on building the care home was due to start next month. Officials at that they said that they were confident on getting a good deal for the site following “soft market” testing. 

Now a delay on the start of building work on the home of over 12 months  seems inevitable.

There have been similar delays at Oakhaven on York Road where work is now over 3 years behind schedule.

Delays also dog the Haxby Hall redevelopment site on the other side of the
City.

Despite the delays in providing new care homes, existing facilities have
been closed. Some like Willow House next to the Bar walls remain empty.

Ironically, the original plan to provide a, mainly private sector funded,
care village on the site of the Lowfield’s school had been developed in 2010 to the point where work was scheduled to start. The scheme was shelved by the incoming Labour Council and 9 years later there is little to show but some “roads to nowhere” and large spoil heaps.

The site is now has little security. It is attracting children who want to play
on the dangerous spoil heaps.

The football pitches have long gone so alternative children’s play facilities
are non existent.

Even the Kingsway multi user games area has been turned into a building
compound for another development..

Lowfields plans in 2016

57 complaints last year received by Ombudsman about the City of York Council

The Local Government Ombudsman was asked to investigate 57 complaints about the York Council last year.

Transport and planning issues attracted the most complaints.

Ombudsman complaints 2018/19

The equivalent figure for the North Yorkshire County Council was 82 complaints in total, with Adult Social Care and Children’s Services being the most criticised.

The figures are included in the annual report of the Ombudsman

Of the York complaints, 21 were further investigated by the Ombudsman.

Of these, 11 were upheld. A full  list can be found here (click)

The Ombudsman says that the Council complied with their recommendations in all 11 cases although there were delays in 3 instances.

The annual letter from the Ombudsman to the York Council can also now be read on their web site (click)

It includes a “public interest” report about the Council’s failure to provide adequate support for a couple with a terminally ill baby.

The report says that social workers did not visit the baby in hospital

The Ombudsman’s findings are normally reported to a Council committee for consideration and possible changes to procedures.

Extract from the Ombudsman’s annual letter 2019 to York Council

Residents views sought on making York an “age friendly” City

Partners working to improve York for its older residents have launched a consultation on getting out and about in the city.

The consultation has been launched at www.york.gov.uk/AgeFriendlyYork and will run until 9 August. This is a new step towards making the city more age-friendly and an even better place for older residents.

With around ten percent of York’s population aged over 65 – one third of whom live alone – the city has joined the UK network of Age Friendly communities which are linked to the World Health Organisation.

York aims to help older people live healthy and active later lives, that they are happy and are in good health while living in their community. Being an Age Friendly city means that older residents are encouraged to become active citizens, shaping the place that they live in by working alongside local groups, council and businesses to identify and make changes to the physical and social environment they live in.

In York, this will be done by working towards improving the choices older people have regarding how they can travel and where they travel to, how they spend their time and access information, the quality of their housing and services for older people.

The initiative is supported by the York Health and Wellbeing Board, and partners will work with City of York Council, York Older People’s Assembly, York CVS as well as local groups and businesses to engage older people and key stakeholders about their lives and to ask for suggestions to make the city more age friendly. 

Poll on older peoples accommodation in York

Residents across York are being asked for their views on how and where they, or their loved ones, want to live and be supported as they age in a city wide consultation this month.

City of York Council wants to hear the views of all residents, regardless of their age, about the different accommodation options and what can be done to support life long independence.

The survey forms part of York’s Older People’s Accommodation Programme which aims to ensure that older people’s accommodation needs are met now and in the future.

The survey is available online now at https://www.york.gov.uk/consultations and in paper copy Explore Library Learning Centres. The council will also be running consultations directly with key stakeholders and community groups. The closing date for the consultation is 11 August.

The Tackling Fuel Poverty scheme received £5.7 million from the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP), delivered in partnership with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, through the Leeds City Region Growth Deal – a £1 billion package of Government investment to accelerate growth and create jobs across Leeds City Region.S

New benefits system causing problems in York

Councillors will receive on update on the financial support and welfare benefit activities being offered to residents at a meeting on Thursday.

A copy of the report can be read by clicking here

At the meeting, the Executive will be asked to note the update which highlights the range of work undertaken to support those across the city  in need of financial help. Councillors will also be asked to approve an action plan, which has been developed following recommendations from a recent financial inclusion scrutiny review.

In the 2018/19 financial year the York Financial Assistance Scheme spent £228,341 providing direct help to residents in financial difficulty due to exceptional circumstances.

In addition, nine projects, delivered by partner organisations, were awarded grants totalling £166,358 to target help and support to those that need it most.  These ranged from funding Citizens Advice York for their specialist debt support service to working with those over 50 to improve their prospects of employment to placing advice services in community venues and GP surgeries making them easier to access for residents. 

The report also recognises the positive impact of various community projects. These include the continued success of the Chapelfields Community Hub which has just celebrated its second birthday. Also, ‘cooking on a budget’ courses have been delivered in Clifton, Haxby Road, Bell Farm, Tang Hall and Chapelfields. These have been used to encourage low cost healthy eating and as a gateway into other opportunities.

As well as this, the council is continuing to work with Advice York and other partners to promote the council tax support scheme.  The online application process has been made easier and residents can be considered for both council tax support and discretionary housing payments through a single form.  In addition, information events have taken place to promote the council tax support scheme to older people.

“Residents wanting to find out more about financial assistance in York can visit www.york.gov.uk/Benefits.”

York Council to develop York’s residential care options for children and young people

City of York Council’s Executive will be asked to consider plans to transform York’s existing residential care provision for children and young people in care at a meeting next week.

“The proposals would enable the council to better meet the needs of children and young people aged 9-18 years of age in York who need a period of residential support, allowing them to remain near their families and local communities while receiving specialist care”.

The Executive will be asked to approve plans to buy three new two/three bedroom buildings to provide specialist nurturing environments for children and young people in small groups of similar age.

The council’s current home would be remodelled under the proposals to provide supported accommodation for young people aged 16-18 years of age, providing a transition to independent living.

Under the plans, specialist foster carers would help support children and young people when they leave the residential accommodation, helping them to make the move back to a family environment with foster carers or to independent living, depending on their age.

The new buildings would be operated in partnership with external providers specialising in providing evidence-based therapeutic support to children and young with complex needs.

The Executive will be asked to approve plans for the council to borrow £1.36m to purchase the new buildings, with the payments being met through the existing revenue budgets of the Children, Education and Communities Directorate

The plan will be discussed at a meeting taking place on 18th July

Willow House Elderly Persons Home still empty

The former Willow House Elderly Persons Home on Long Close Lane is still empty.
Willow House today

It is nearly 3 years since residents were moved out of the home and the Council put the site on the open market.

In a £3 million deal, the site was set to be sold for a 126 bed student accommodation development.

However there was a controversy regarding public access to land which had been used for occasional leisure purposes. Labour blocked the plans in November 2017.

A year earlier it had been decided to close the home.

Willow House sales particulars

Lack of progress in developing what is a prime site next to the City walls was criticised last October when there was no progress to be seen behind the security railings.

No planning application has been submitted for the redevelopment of the site which is registered with estate agents Sanderson Weatherall. The agents say that their clients would prefer an “unconditional offer”.

The area being offered for sale includes the disputed “informal leisure” land

The building and surrounding land is now becoming something of an eyesore.

This is unfortunate as it is visible fro the City walls.

Only a few hundred metres away, on the other side of the inner ring road, the vacant site next to the Barbican has become an even bigger eyesore.

Area of land available for sale