A homeless hostel criticised as being ‘too big’ and ‘unmanageable’ could be replaced with smaller units of accommodation.

Labour-controlled Cheshire West and Chester Council is considering reversing the previous Tory administration’s decision to open the 36-bed Richmond Court hostel in Boughton because ‘smaller properties would be preferable for service users and local communities’.

Richmond Court, the main hub for homelessness services, has always been perceived as acting as a magnet for trouble.

Boughton ward councillor Martyn Delaney who held a residents’ meeting about the issue last Friday told The Chronicle Richmond Court was ‘too big’, ‘unmanageable’ and in ‘the wrong place’, given it is in a residential area.

A fire broke out at Richmond Court in Chester on Friday, April 24
A fire broke out at Richmond Court in Chester on Friday, April 24, 2015.

The suggestion to operate smaller units of accommodation has arisen out of proposals being discussed by CWaC’s cabinet tonight (Wednesday, November 30).

CWaC wants to recommission its four housing-related and homelessness contract, with a recommendation that, if approved, a 12-week public consultation should begin immediately.

All of the current contracts are due to finish at the end of March 2018.

The council wants to make sure the new service is more co-ordinated and save money by combining the four contracts and having a single provider.

An ambulance and rapid response vehicle outside Richmond Court in Boughton
An ambulance and rapid response vehicle outside Richmond Court in Boughton in 2014.

At the moment the council does not commission any daytime activities, which often leaves homeless individuals without meaningful activities or support during the daytime. Provision of daytime support is seen as a priority.

And direct access to emergency beds for rough sleepers would more flexible and at more locations. This service is currently only available in Chester. New services would increase provision from 10 to 18 beds.

Cllr Angela Claydon, cabinet member for housing, said: “Having a stable and affordable home is fundamental to someone’s quality of life. Whilst this is something that many of us take for granted, there are still too many individuals and families, who, for a variety of reasons, experience housing difficulties.

“We work closely with our partners to provide a range of services to support those who find themselves homeless or who need housing-related support but whilst excellent work is being done, homelessness is increasing.

“With more residents being placed in temporary accommodation we have an opportunity to review our approach and see how, with a clear focus on prevention, we can link vital services together in a more effective way to support those most vulnerable.“

The new model before members proposes to deliver an increased focus on prevention including mediation, advice and information services, intervention services to provide support to people in their home and increased emergency accommodation.

There would be greater integration between agencies and specialist services for 16 and 17-year-olds who are regarded as being more vulnerable.

If approved by cabinet, the recommendations will then be considered by People Overview and Scrutiny Panel on Monday, December 5. If no concerns are raised the next stage of beginning to consult with residents from December 15 will be delegated to Cllr Claydon.

Cllr Angela Claydon, who is the current Lord Mayor of Chester

Cllr Claydon added: “The current range of housing-related support services provided across the borough costs the council £2.6 million every year. We are under huge financial pressure to make savings and we believe that they can be made if we move from four separate contracts to one, but not at the expense of service users.

“For that reason we also want to invest in new daytime activities and increase the provision of direct access emergency accommodation, which will come at an additional cost and as such we have reduced the proposed saving from £500,000 to £250,000.

“We will look to engage and work closely with residents every step of the way, starting with the consultation. I would really like to hear from as many residents as possible on all aspects of the new service model and I would urge people to have their say.”