PRIVATISATION OF HOMELESS SERVICES IN MANCHESTER
Manchester UNISON member
towards the privatisation of social housing, introduced by Thatcher and
continued by New Labour, is having devastating effects on families who are
homeless. Manchester Council's Housing Department, previously known as
Manchester Housing and now known as Housing Services, had in the past prided
itself on having a progressive attitude towards social housing and the
plight of the homeless, both single and families. This was only true in
relation to other authorities who offered very poor services, but from a
socialist perspective, Manchester services left a lot to be desired. Such
attitudes clearly laid the foundations for the possibility of fully
embracing the philosophy of "private" and "individual" that has become the
hallmark of current decision-making within public sector housing.
Manchester over the last four years, increasing numbers of homeless families
have been placed in bed/breakfast accommodation, something not done for over
20 years. The reason for this is that temporary accommodation for such
families is very limited, and always full, and therefore completely
inadequate in satisfying the needs of families who find themselves in these
Researchers say there has not been an increase in the number of families
presenting as homeless, but if thatís the case, why is bed/breakfast
accommodation needed now when it hadnít been needed in the past. Ten or
twelve years ago there were often vacancies in temporary accommodation, so
the families must be coming from somewhere.
happening is that with growing problems within society, people find
themselves homeless on more than one occasion, people with serious social
problems such as drug or alcohol abuse, living in poverty and without much
support are unable to sustain a viable home.
result of the Right to Buy there are thousands fewer houses available at
affordable rents. This of course has hit the most vulnerable in our society.
Yet there are even more attacks planned. If current decisions are
implemented, available council run temporary accommodation will be cut by a
third before the end of the year in Manchester, when one hostel will be
closed down and ultimately razed to the ground. The prime land on which it
presently sits will be in the hands of a housing association, who, with a
grant of about £2 million from the Housing Corporation, will build a new
facility for homeless families. In the meantime many families who are
homeless now and some who will be in the next few months will be paid for by
the council to be accommodated in properties owned by a private company, so
that public money will become private money. As if that wasnít bad enough,
the support such families get will be very minimal indeed.
There is also
no guarantee, when the new facility is built, that it will be staffed by council
employees; the best trained and experienced for the job may find that their jobs
have also gone private.
becomes the scenario, it will only be a matter of time before the remaining
council-run accommodation for homeless families follows suit, removing services
to this very vulnerable client group, away from the public and accountable
sector to one where profit is the name of the game.
Labour council (not socialist) has fully endorsed the capitalist system without
so much as a whimper and unfortunately the union's voice, as an organisation,
has been so quiet as not to be heard hardly at all.
activists have been fighting long and hard to reverse the situation, their
organisation must be supported and strengthened, if we are to make it :People
not Profit, not the other way round.