Tackling Homelessness

Since my early twenties I have volunteered with charities that provide support for homeless people, providing shelter, food and company. I remain clear that one person without a home is one too many and the Government remains committed to do more to prevent people becoming homelessness in the first place.

The revised statutory Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities has been published this week. The statutory guidance sets out the steps that local authorities should take into account when providing support to people who are homeless and plans to update the current Homelessness Code of Guidance. In consultation with local authorities and the homeless sector the current guidance has been reviewed to cover the new duties created by the Homelessness Reduction Act whilst also streamlining the information on existing law.

The Act is the most ambitious legislative reform in decades and will ensure that more people get the help they need earlier to prevent them from becoming homeless in the first place. However, the Act is just one element of our ambitious programme to fundamentally reform the response to homelessness, putting prevention at the heart of this approach.

We’ve allocated over £950 million until 2020 to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping. Cornwall Council is receiving dedicated homelessness prevention funding and Ocean Housing funding for new dedicated accommodation for people rough sleeping here.

Cornwall Council will be receiving £697,152 between now and 2020 to fund the administrative costs of the additional new duties contained within the Act. Cornwall Council will also be receiving its share of £3 million to support them in upgrading their data systems to monitor the impact of the Homelessness Reduction Act.

But we know there is more to do. That is why are aiming to halve rough sleeping by 2022 and eliminate it altogether by 2027.

First published in the West Briton

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Housing in Cornwall

Everybody should live in a decent and safe home. No one should be homeless or living in poor quality housing.

Since being elected I have worked hard to deliver more genuinely affordable homes for local people and improve the quality of existing homes.

I have championed community led housing for local people. New taxes on second homes are being used to build new homes for local people in Cornwall. For the years 2015-2018 Cornwall Council and the Isles of Scilly Council will receive £21,248,740 which will provide 909 affordable homes for local people. This is in addition to government schemes to help people own their own home.

While I’m confident that the majority of landlords in Cornwall provide decent accommodation, unfortunately I know from my constituency casework that there are some landlords who will cut corners to get as much money as possible while potentially endangering their tenants.

I am pleased to have supported measures that crack down on this minority of “rogue” landlords in Cornwall. Landlords who flout rules on safety and affordability face tougher penalties. New rules came into force on 6 April 2017 so that landlords cannot shirk their responsibilities.

To help Cornwall Council build up their capability to tackle “rogue landlords” I helped secure additional funding for this purpose. Cornwall Council officers are now taking action including prosecutions. The financial penalties that Cornwall Council now have the power to secure should enable them to fund much more rigorous action.

Cornwall Council now has access to tenancy deposit protection data that help them identify rental properties and so that they can take targeted prevention and enforcement work.

Please don’t suffer in silence and fear “revenge eviction” contact me if you feel your home is not safe. We will try and help you resolve issues with your landlord.

Stadium for Cornwall

Last week’s front page headline “Council bail-out to save stadium?” poses an important question. It is good news that Truro City Football Club and the Pirates want to work together and share one stadium. Many of us have been pushing for this for some time. Truro & Penwith College’s loyal support is commendable too.

I believe a Stadium for Cornwall could be a real boost not only for these two sports but for others too.

The questions are where it should be located and how to pay for it. Developers asserted that the new facilities could be paid for from some of the profits made from building and selling homes and retail businesses. However supermarkets and other out of town retailers are pulling back their investments so this is not a viable option.

In less than a month, on 4th May the people of Cornwall will elect their parish and Cornwall councillors. It is vital that you vote for representatives who you believe will not only be an effective local champion but also a member of a party or group with a shared plan for delivering your priorities for Cornwall.

I believe that the new Cornwall councillors should consider the new scheme for delivering a Stadium for Cornwall alongside all the priorities they were elected to deliver. Consideration of this new scheme should not be hurried and made solely by officers of the Council and a few Cabinet Members without the proper scrutiny of all of Cornwall’s councillors.

A scheme of such significance needs to be considered openly and thoroughly, not only by the Cornwall councillors but with the residents of Cornwall too.

All of Cornwall’s MPs have offered support to enable a Stadium for Cornwall. We stand ready to work with the new Cornwall Council to deliver it.

First published in the West Briton 12/04/17

Antisocial behaviour in Truro

So another week passes and the people sleeping rough in Truro have not received the help they need. Antisocial behaviour has escalated into a stabbing. What have these unlinked but totally unacceptable incidents got in common? Cornwall Council’s lack of grip and getting their priorities right.

During the same week that Cornwall Council leaders are defending spending more than £500,000 on a risky bid for Truro to be the EU Capital of Culture in 2023, without even securing agreement from the Mayor, a fellow LibDem Cornwall Councillor.

We all support investment in Cornish culture and tourism. Record numbers of tourists visited last year with even more anticipated. Additional investment from the Government since 2010 is significant, £750,000 for the Cornish language alone. Last week, another £100,000 was announced to start a Cornish Culture Fund.

Yes, Cornwall Council is having to make savings, like most other public services, to deal with the record national debt racked up by the last Labour government but that does not excuse them. All elected representatives have to make tough choices, but the LibDems who are the largest group of councillors are failing some of the most vulnerable people in Cornwall, as well as everyone else effected by the resulting criminal activity.

Amongst other things, disproportionate cuts to Cornwall Council’s ‘Supporting People’ funding that helps vulnerable people sustain their tenancies in private and social rented homes have contributed to the present homelessness and anti social behaviour.

So come on Cornwall Council, get your priorities right, stop wasting money and don’t further cutting services that could prevent rough sleeping and crime in Truro. If you really want to help Truro, reverse the planned cuts to Supporting People and spend your considerable resources working more effectively with partners including the Police and NHS to keep people safe.

Tackling Homelessness in Truro

Last week I met with the primary local agencies that have the responsibility of tackling the antisocial and criminal behaviour of a small group of people camped out in the centre of Truro.

This has been going on for too long. Last Autumn, I welcomed the Mayor of Truro’s initiative of getting all the organisations that have the resources to help rough-sleepers and tackle people committing antisocial behaviour, including street drinking, around the same table to develop a coordinated action plan. There are lessons to be learned from other places where effective partnerships have tackled similar problems, so I provided information and details of additional funding opportunities.

Keeping the city centre safe and an enjoyable place for all members of our community is not the sole responsibility of our local Police, it requires effective partnership working between Cornwall Council, our local NHS, local businesses and the wider civil society of Truro.

I am frustrated that the problems people have been facing for months now have yet to resolved. There has been progress but there remains a small group of people, who I am told are refusing help and continuing their anti social behaviour. St Petroc’s are offering support in their Truro night shelter.

In order for the Police to take further action, to secure prosecutions for anti social behaviour, they need more people who have experienced or witnessed the anti social behaviour to come forward and tell them about it. People convicted of committing antisocial behaviour crimes who have alcohol or drug abuse problems can have their punishment linked to participation in therapeutic activities to reduce this harm to themselves and society.

You can email the Truro Police directly from the Devon and Cornwall website or call 101 or speak to one of the officers on the beat.

 

First published in the West Briton 11 January 2017

Loneliness at Christmas

As I write this last column of the year, I am looking forward to being with my family, at home in Cornwall for Christmas. For me Christmas is a special time of year and I really enjoy the preparations and sharing the day with as many of my family as can make it.

I also enjoy inviting someone who would otherwise be on their own. It’s a habit I started when I was young and living overseas when I couldn’t afford to make it home. So I recreated the sense of family with others who were also stranded, far from their loved ones. My favourite Christmas away from home was spent cooking a traditional British Christmas lunch, on a very rickety old stove, in the Riverside Church shelter for homeless men in New York City.

Based on my personal experiences over the years, I very much support the Diocese of Truro Christmas appeal for people to consider inviting a neighbour or friend, who might be on their own, to join them for a meal over the Christmas festivities.

I am really pleased that so many local people will be joining community events to share the spirit of Christmas with their friends and neighbours. I hope that if you or someone you know is feeling lonely that you will join the many community events happening in Falmouth and Penryn.

The Salvation Army on Brook Street in Falmouth with be providing a Christmas Day Lunch for the community and homeless at 12.00 noon. There will be a Church Service at 11.00 am and all are welcome to come along. For further details contact Alison Godwin on 01326 314567.

The Winter Night Shelter Cornwall Project (WNSC) will provide night shelters in December and January. Last winter we accommodated 111 rough sleepers and 75 % of these were helped into permanent accommodation as a result of their contact with the service. WNSC could be a life saver for those with no home and also provides companionship and food. The night shelters need a large number of volunteers to make this project a success. Full training and expenses will be given to prepare for this challenging, but always rewarding service to those in most need.

Any support you can give this important work will be gratefully received and if you need any further information please do not hesitate to contact the Diocesan Social Responsibility Officer Andrew Yates on 01872 274351 or e-mail Andrew.yates@truro.anglican.org

or Corinna Langford at St Petroc’s 01872 264153 corinna.langford@stpetrocs.org.uk.

Britain, according to government figures, is the loneliness capital of Europe, but even – or perhaps especially – here, the urge to connect is overwhelming. But I am concerned in this post Brexit Britain that people are feeling less part of our community. Some people tell me that even talking about Brexit has become such a difficult topic of conversation that they have stopped talking to colleagues or friends all together.

It should be possible for all of us to listen to each other respectfully and appreciate and value our differences. Kindness in my opinion is a much undervalued characteristic. Going forward we need to step back from the angry, even hateful public discourse that has been a sad feature of 2016 and commit to reconnecting with each other in 2017. From spending time with people all around my constituency I know that there is much more that unites us than divides us.

As George Monbiot recently wrote in The Guardian, “This reattachment, I believe, holds the key to both our psychological and political transformation. Connected, engaged and happy people do not allow themselves to be trampled into the dirt. It is when we are estranged both from each other and from our political environment that we are easiest to manipulate, as the rise of demagoguery in Europe and the US seems to attest. Without the power of kindness our society will fall apart”

All that remains for me is to wish you a very Happy Christmas. It continues to be both an honour and privilege to serve this community as your MP and I am very much looking forward to continuing my work for you in 2017.

Published by Falmouth Wave Magazine

Winter Wellness

The Cornwall Community Foundation is calling on anyone who receives the Winter Fuel Payment but does not need some or all of it, to donate it to Cornwall’s Surviving Winter campaign. The aim is to help local people to stay warm and well this winter.

Despite the mild temperatures this year, winter is still a very challenging time for many of those who live in our communities. Too many local people live in poorly insulated and costly to heat homes. Living in a cold home causes serious health problems including heart attacks and strokes with over 342 ‘excess’ deaths in Cornwall in winter each year.

There are many small specialist community organisations who are equipped to give support and direct, practical help, and these will be funded from the donations. This year we are aiming to raise £30,000 to help those most in need of our support.

Donations can be made by sending a cheque made payable to The Cornwall Community Foundation or visiting http://www.cornwallfoundation.com.

Last winter the campaign successfully allocated £15,550 in grants to a total of 13 organisations. Over 500 people benefited from the help received in Cornwall.

The groups that benefited last winter include Community Energy Plus, Cornwall Rural Community Charity, Cornwall Women’s Refuge Trust, Gateway 2 New Life, Inclusion Cornwall, Launceston Memory Café, St Austell Community Kitchen, The Oasis Centre, Volunteer Cornwall and the Wild Young Parents Project.

There is a great deal of local help for people who are struggling to make ends meet but not everyone knows where to turn.

Sadly, I have found that the people who most need help are least likely to receive it.  You can help by promoting The Winter Wellness free phone 0800 954 1956- the expert and friendly advice service that connects people to the help they need.