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BOURNEMOUTH'S HOUSING SERVICE IS STILL 'FAIR'

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The housing management service provided by Bournemouth BC has been rated as fair and has uncertain prospects for im...
The housing management service provided by Bournemouth BC has been rated as fair and has uncertain prospects for improvement, according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission. The Audit Commission inspection team gave the service one star out of a possible three.

Abdool Kara, head of housing in the southern region, said: 'Bournemouth has not improved its housing services since the previous inspection in 2001 when they were judged to be fair. While the condition of Bournemouth's council housing and estates is good, there is much room for improvement in the quality of service provided to their tenants, particularly tenant particiaption'.

The inspection report does highlight a number of key strengths:

* High levels of rent is collected and arrears are low

* Housing estates are well maintained

However, inspectors also found weaknesses such as:

* Nuisance and anti-social behaviour problems are not dealt with effectively

* Tenants have limited opportunities to get involved in how services are provided for them

* Services are not easily accessible or customer focused

* Limited assessment of value for money

To help the service improve, inspectors made a number of recommendations, including:

* To broaden the involvement of tenants in the management of the housing service

* Producing clear measurable service standards for housing management services which inform tenants of what they can expect

* To develop, publicise and enforce clear policies for dealing with nuisance and anti-social behaviour

Description of service

Bournemouth BC own and manage 5,277 homes, the majority of which are flats. The inspection considered the quality of the council's management of its housing including rent collection, estate management, tenancy management, tenant participation, sheltered housing and letting of homes.

QUALITY OF SERVICE TO HOMELESS PEOPLE IN BOURNEMOUTH IS 'GOOD'

The homeless and housing advice provided by Bournemouth BC has been rated as good although it has uncertain prospects for improvement, according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission.

The Audit Commission inspection team gave the service two stars out of a possible three.

Abdool Kara, head of housing in the southern region, said: 'Bournemouth has successfully reduced the number of people made homeless and those sleeping rough in the town centre. Given the scale of the problem faced this is quite an achievement and reflects the wide range of initiatives implemented in the last 18 months. However, for this to be sustained, its performance will need to be better managed and improvement plans firmed up.'

The inspection report does highlight a number of key strengths:

* Homelessness has been prevented in many cases by finding solutions before someone loses their home

* The use of bed and breakfast hotels has been minimised with people now staying in good quality temporary housing or being housed permanently

* When people do become homeless they are helped in finding a new home and to deal with personal and health problems

However, inspectors also found weaknesses such as:

* People in temporary housing are not always kept informed of progress with their applications for permanent housing

* Limited information is available to customers about the service they can expect

To help the service improve, inspectors made a number of recommendations, including:

* Ensure that all temporary accommodation remains good quality

* Provide all service users with more information about the service they receive

Bournemouth BC assists those people who have become homeless or who are threatened with homelessness. This includes the provision of advice and support as well as considering applications for housing.

Copies of the report are available on the Audit Commission Inspection website at www.audit-commission.gov.uk

Statement from Bournemouth BC follows:

> 'Good' homelessness service sees no one in long term B&B

>

> A recent Audit Commission report into Homelessness and Housing Advice

> Service has rated Bournemouth Council's homelessness service as good, with

> a two star rating, highlighting many areas of strength where the Council

> have made significant and continuous improvements.

>

> The report found that the number of people living in B&B's has reduced

> from over 200 households in 2002 to an average of 20 in 2004 and none for

> more than 6 weeks. The council's efforts to reduce the number of people

> living in B&B's and the number of people sleeping rough on the town's

> streets was stated as a 'considerable achievement', due to the large scale

> of the problem.

>

> The inspectors found the services to be good with uncertain prospects for

> improvement for the following reasons:

>

> * Good quality advice to help with housing problems are easily

> available from the council and it's partner the Bournemouth Housing Advice

> Service

> * The council has a strong focus on homelessness prevention which has

> significantly reduced the number of people becoming homeless in the first

> place

> * People are now able to live in good quality temporary housing if

> they are made homeless and the council have facilitated access to a much

> wider range of permanent homes

> * Homeless people are supported and helped to find a home, to deal

> with personal and health problems, and to help them look after themselves

> once they have a home and there is good focus on the needs of the

> individual when giving advice.

> * There is a wide range of initiatives to help people threatened with

> homelessness such as rent deposits, housing support to private landlords,

> return home and family mediation as well as outreach workers to assist

> those that are sleeping rough.

>

> The report stated that the council has a 'track record of delivering

> improvements to the service' and in order continuously challenge and

> strengthen them the homelessness and Housing Advice Service; inspectors

>have recommended that the council undertake the following;

>

> * Ensure that people in temporary accommodation are kept informed of

> progress made with their homelessness or housing register application.

> * Revise the format and quality of letters used to correspond with

> homelessness service users to make them more user friendly with clear

> reference to advice and support agencies.

> * Prepare comprehensive service information and standards for the

> homelessness service so that users are clear of the service provided and

> the performance achieved.

>

> Cabinet member for community relations, Andrew Garratt said,

> 'We are pleased that the significant reduction in the number of people

> being accommodated in B&B's, especially families, has been recognised by

> the Audit-Commission. However, we are not going to become complacent. We

> are clear on what we want to achieve for homeless people and are

> continually working towards achieving a 3 star rating.'

>

> An Audit-Commission inspection was also carried out on Housing Management

> and was scored as a 'one star, fair service' that has uncertain prospects

> for improvement.

>

>

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