Rough sleeping in Doncaster town centre has dropped by 70% since this time last year thanks to the results of a concentrated action plan by key public and third sector partners.
An intensive action plan to support people living on the street has meant some of the most entrenched rough sleepers in Doncaster are now living in accommodation and receiving rehabilitation for physical and mental health issues.
Named ‘The Complex Lives Alliance’ teams of professionals from ourselves, Doncaster Council, South Yorkshire Police, Community and Acute NHS Trusts, Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust, which includes Aspire, the drug and alcohol service, Primary Care Doncaster, NHS Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) Criminal Justice, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and community, voluntary and faith organisations all work together to identify and support people off the streets and into the help they need to improve their lives.
Recently awarded an accolade for their work; a local government MJ Award for Care and Health Integration, the specialist team is currently working to support 122 very vulnerable people with complex needs who were all previously rough sleeping. 100 of these are now in some form of accommodation being supported by key workers and personalised wrap around support plans. This includes support with drug and alcohol misuse, physical and mental health, offending behaviours, Job Centre appointments, court appearances and achieving an overall healthier lifestyle.
In the past two years Doncaster, like many towns and cities in the UK, has seen rising challenges related to rough sleeping. This has been mostly centred on the Doncaster Town Centre area and connected with growing public, business and public service concerns about rough sleeping, poor physical and mental health, the use of synthetic cannabinoids, begging and anti-social behaviour.
Complex Lives lead for Doncaster Council, Pat Hagan, said: “Rough sleepers often have a combination of issues to tackle including homelessness, drug and alcohol misuse, mental and physical ill health and offending behaviour but working as a coordinated partnership means they don't have to deal with various different services. We now have a single assertive outreach and case management team with a real understanding of those with complex lives in Doncaster. They're building relationships that get to the bottom of people’s complex needs and helping those sleeping rough achieve some stability.
“Our aim is to reduce rough sleeping to zero, but we know we can experience spikes and we have to be clear that in the light of the everyday challenge we face, this is not a task and finish job, but a long term mission.”
Chief Inspector Jayne Forrest, of South Yorkshire Police, said: “The success this action plan has had in the 12 months since it was put in place shows just how crucial it is to take a partnership approach where key issues such as rough sleeping are concerned.
“Since we introduced a dedicated Neighbourhood Policing Team for the central Doncaster area, our officers have made great progress in getting to know the local community – both residents and business owners. Rough sleeping was high on their agenda in terms of concerns and that is why we’ve made this partnership a priority.
“I look forward to seeing this partnership go from strength to strength, having a hugely positive impact on the lives of the people of Doncaster.”
Stuart Green, Aspire Drugs and Alcohol Service Manager said: “By providing basic human needs like safety and shelter we are able to support some of our most vulnerable people in Doncaster to access help to live healthier lives.”
Paul Tanney, Chief Executive of St Leger Homes Doncaster said: “We continue to play an active role in securing accommodation for homeless people in the borough.”
Jackie Pederson, Chief Officer at NHS Doncaster CCG said: “The Complex Lives service is a great example of how services in Doncaster are working together to improve the health and wellbeing of some of our most vulnerable people.
“The Complex Lives Alliance demonstrates how partnership working across health and social care can have a huge impact on helping those that have or are at risk from entering periods in their lives that can have negative impacts on their health and wellbeing.”
Clair Selman, Head of Rehabilitation and Business Development at South Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company said: “The South Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company work in partnership with Complex Lives to support Service Users who are within the Criminal Justice System in order to provide an intensive wrap around support within Doncaster. SYCRC also work closely with complex lives in identifying cases who are due for release from custody via our resettlement service (Enhanced Through the Gate) into Doncaster in order to provide stability and suitable accommodation prior to release along with any additional support for complex cases.”
Doncaster Council and its partners have an action plan which covers some key areas - tackling begging, homelessness, rough sleeping and drug/alcohol misuse; improving the appearance of the town centre including the cleanliness and appearance of buildings; retail investment and economic growth; increased animation and events to attract visitors; improving people’s arrival with welcome points and signage and changing the longer term offer in the town centre to include more cultural and leisure pursuits.
In addition, the Town Centre Masterplan is unlocking a mass of redevelopment to regenerate the town. One part of this, the new look Wool Market, opened in March with over 75,000 visitors on the first weekend. Quality Streets work has also started on Silver Street with Hall Gate almost finished and the new train station forecourt projects continue to improve the town’s main entrance points. Building work has started on the new cinema in the civic and cultural quarter, very near to the new Library and Museum which is also taking shape.
Mayor of Doncaster, Ros Jones said: “We have an ambitious vision for our town centre with some elements already achieved and others underway and we have every reason to be positive about its future. However, the investment we are putting into Doncaster Town Centre isn’t just bricks and mortar, it’s about changing people’s lives.
“This ground breaking alliance supports some of our most vulnerable people and tackles a serious societal challenge. Our unique way of working is making a major impact through allowing case workers the time and space to develop a relationship with someone and be ready with the services needed when they are needed. This isn’t just about getting people off the streets, it’s about getting them connected to mainstream services, lifestyles, jobs and community.
"There’s a long way to go, and the work is multifaceted, but our goal is to transform the lives of people with complex lives, their families and communities in which they live – as well as Doncaster town centre.”
The public can help by getting behind the Real Help Doncaster campaign which discourages people from giving money on the street to those who are begging, as this just perpetuates the cycle. People can instead donate money via the Real Help Doncaster website: www.realhelpdoncaster.org.uk and their money will be used towards support in getting people off the streets and for the most vulnerable people in the community to get longer term help. The fund was launched at the end of October 2018 and so far £8,800 has been raised from businesses and members of the public and 14 people have benefited from the fund.