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TAMESIDE MBC HOMELESSNESS SERVICES HAS EXCELLENT PROSPECTS FOR IMPROVEMENT

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The homelessness and housing advice service provided by Tameside MBC is fair and has excellent prospects for improv...
The homelessness and housing advice service provided by Tameside MBC is fair and has excellent prospects for improvement, according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission.

The housing inspection team gave the service one star* because staff in the Housing Advice Centre are customer-focused and customers are pleased with the standard of service provided. However, weaknesses include the service provided to 16 and 17-year-olds which falls significantly short of national standards.

Nick Atkin, assistant lead housing inspector, northern region, said: 'There is a clear commitment at all levels within the council to improve services and performance management. Weaknesses have been identified and a plan developed to address these. Continuous improvement is part of the culture of the council and there is a clear track record of tackling difficult issues and achieving major change. It is an approach is based on sound research, customer feedback and effective partnership working.'

The inspection report highlights a number of key strengths:

Some effective partnerships are in place, helping to provide a range of housing advice, support and accommodation.

The council has clear policies and procedures in place for dealing with homelessness and homeless cases are generally correctly dealt with under the requirements of the Housing Act 1996.

The council is working well with others to improve customer involvement and plan for and implement the Homelessness Act 2002.

However, inspectors also found weaknesses:

The council makes extensive use of bed & breakfast accommodation and much of this is of variable quality. (Successive governments have said that bed & breakfast accommodation is unsuitable for all homeless households, and one of the objectives of the Homelessness Act 2002 is to eliminate the use of bed & breakfast accommodation for families in particular.)

There are gaps in provision for a range of client groups.

Services to ex-asylum seekers presenting as homeless and requiring assessment are currently inadequate for those who do not speak English.

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

Continue to develop proposals to upgrade, improve and extend the range of temporary accommodation provided for homeless people.

Together with customers and stakeholders, find the best way for customers to access the service - whether formally through the Housing Aid Centre, or less formally through, for example, outreach work.

Improve the service provided to 16 and 17-year-olds and develop a strategy to meet the needs of black and ethnic minority customers.

The Housing Act 1996 places a duty on local authorities to provide a comprehensive housing advice service free of charge to anyone living in the district.

The homelessness and housing advice service is delivered on behalf of the council mainly through the Housing Aid Centre provided by New Charter Housing Trust, the registered sociallandlord to whom the Council transferred its housing stock in March 2000. The out-of-hours homelessness service is provided by the Council's Social Services Department.

Copies of the report are available from Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council or on the Audit Commission website at www.audit-commission.gov.uk

NOTES

1. The service was inspected as part of the government's best value initiative, which places a duty on all councils to deliver the most economic, efficient and effective services possible.

2. The inspection involved interviews with council staff and members, and members of the public using the service.

3. The Housing Inspectorate was established to provide the public with an independent assessment of whether best value is being achieved by their local council. Inspection reports judge how well a housing service is currently serving local people, based on a star rating from 0-3 where 0 is poor and 3 excellent, and how likely it is to improve in the future.

4. The government has placed a duty of best value on councils requiring them to improve local services over the next five years. Councils must report annually on their performance (best value performance plans) in order to identify and achieve continual improvements in local services.

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