Speech: Homelessness Prevention Strategy launch

My speech at the launch of the Birmingham Homelessness Prevention Strategy

Download the strategy here: https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/download/downloads/id/2531/birmingham_homelessness_prevention_strategy_2017.pdf

 

Good morning ladies and gentlemen and thank you for joining us here for the launch of the Birmingham Homelessness Prevention Strategy.

You can tell a lot about a city from the way it unites to protect its most vulnerable.

So we can take great pride in the fact that so many partners are coming together to tackle and prevent homelessness.

It’s doesn’t surprise me that Birmingham continues to be a city that helps those in need. Compassion is in our collective DNA. This is a city that stands up for victims; a city that unites to counter injustice and inequality.

And, while compassion and good intentions will only get us so far, what is clear from this strategy is that together we also have the vision, the skills and the sheer determination to tackle an issue that has disastrous consequences for far too many Birmingham citizens.

And I’m not just talking about the very visible rough sleeping crisis.

The sad truth is that Birmingham also has a high number of families who are homeless or in temporary accommodation. And, as we’ve seen in other UK towns and cities, those figures have risen dramatically over the last eight years.

Behind that rise we find far too many individual tales of heartbreak and hardship, we find far too many children living in temporary accommodation often badly affecting their education and we find far too many lives irrevocably damaged.

We cannot and will not sit back as a city and allow that to continue.

Homelessness ruins lives and this strategy acknowledges that we need to do more to recognise the impact that the trauma of homelessness can have on physical and mental health of both adults and children.

Homeless households experience severe health inequalities, and a lower life expectancy than the general population.

Shockingly we know that the impact begins at birth, with homeless children more likely to be born at a low birth weight and miss their immunisations.

Homeless children are three times more likely to experience poor mental health; the impact of which is long lasting.

And even after they have a new home, children who experience homelessness remain vulnerable to family breakdown, domestic abuse, mental ill health, and learning and development difficulties.

At whatever stage in life you are at, homelessness destroys potential.

Which is why the key to this strategy is that vital word: PREVENTION.

Our new focus is on preventing people from becoming homeless in the first place and supporting those who are homeless to build a more positive future in good health, sustainable accommodation and long lasting employment.

To succeed, we must help people secure homes that they can afford and maintain, which is why in the recent local elections we promised to build more affordable homes and homes for social rent.

Saying it is the easy part but we must not underestimate the scale of the challenge.

With the population predicted to rise by 150,000 by 2031, Birmingham needs 89,000 new homes to meet the needs of the city’s population over the next 13 years.

I promise that Birmingham City Council will play its part. Since 2012, we’ve built more affordable homes than any other council in the country and we will continue to build much needed affordable homes through Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust.

But, as the strategy we’re launching today makes clear, we need a range of safe, decent, affordable housing options, both shared and self-contained, in the private, social and third sectors.

We all have a part to play and, though this is a huge challenge, I firmly believe we can work together to drive the systemic change required to deliver this strategy and achieve our collective vision for Birmingham.

Last week we launched our Domestic Abuse Prevention Strategy – an issue often closely linked to homelessness – and I said then that we must ask ourselves what sort of a city we want to live in.

What sort of Birmingham do we want our young people to grow up in?

And, what value do we place on respecting and protecting the most vulnerable in our city?

Those questions are equally applicable as we address the issue of homelessness.

If we look around Birmingham in 2018, this is a city undergoing a dramatic and exciting transformation.

The cranes on our skyline, the building sites and the sheer scale of new developments mean that this is a city on the up.

Our challenge now is to ensure that everyone gets an opportunity to share in that success.

And, at the very least, we should strive to be a city where everyone has a roof over their head and place to call home.

That’s why I’m delighted that so many of the City’s partners and stakeholders have come together to deliver the strategy we’re launching today.

Let’s make it happen.

Birmingham’s tourism sector sees most successful year on record

The figures released today by the West Midlands Growth Company* and research body Global Tourism Solutions (GTS), reveal Birmingham welcomed 41.8 million visitors in 2017, with subsequent visitor spend reaching £7.1 billion – an increase of over nine percent in the space of a year. Average hotel occupancy stood at 75%, matching the previous record set in 2016, whilst RevPAR (revenue per available room) was £51 in value, the highest figure ever recorded.

The city welcomed the most tourists during September, a month that included major events such as the Natwest T20 Finals Day at Edgbaston Stadium and Birmingham’s largest outdoor festival, the Birmingham Weekender. The region’s literary heritage was celebrated as 2017 marked the 80th anniversary of JRR Tolkien’s classic fantasy novel The Hobbit. Heritage was also the sub-sector to see the greatest increase in visitor numbers, up 12% on 2016.

The number of full-time equivalent jobs supported by the visitor economy has risen by 7.2% since 2016, from 70,635 to 75,748.

Leader of Birmingham City Council, Cllr Ian Ward, commented:

“Tourism is a major part of the Birmingham economy, supporting thousands of jobs, and these outstanding figures underline the fact that this city is now a major tourist destination, with a growing profile on the global stage.

“Increasing numbers of visitors come to Birmingham every year and many return time and time again, thanks to our arts and culture, our fantastic food, our sporting offer and because they know they are guaranteed a warm welcome.”

The announcement of the latest figures coincides with a visit to the region from Michael Ellis, Minister for arts, heritage and tourism. The visit marks the arrival of a prominent new tourism project to the area – England’s Waterways, supported by the Discover England Fund. The project, led by the West Midlands Growth Company, will inspire international visitors to explore the canal networks and surrounding cultural offer throughout Birmingham and the wider Midlands region.

Tourism Minister Michael Ellis, commented:

“Birmingham is one the UK’s leading destinations, with excellent attractions, nightlife and hospitality. Following the hugely successful Commonwealth Games handover and the arrival of Dippy the Diplodocus, this positive tourism trend looks set to continue well into the future.

“The wider Midlands region boasts a charming canal network surrounded by vibrant green spaces and unique heritage attractions. We are pleased to be helping to attract even more people to experience these picturesque waterways through our Discover England Fund”.

Over the last 10 years, Birmingham has attracted growing numbers of overnight visitors. The total number of staying visitors has increased by a third (1.2 million) since 2008. The top destinations visitors are travelling from include Ireland, Germany and the US.

Neil Snowball, Chief Executive of Warwickshire CCC, commented:

“The biggest sporting and cultural events come to Birmingham because of the outstanding experience that is provided by the city stakeholders working together in partnership. The warm welcome and logistical ease is something that is reported time and again by visitors to Edgbaston.

“Last year, the stadium hosted five games in the ICC Champions Trophy, England’s first ever Day/Night Investec Test match and NatWest T20 Blast Finals Day, which was predicted to have generated around £45 million towards the local economy. We’re thrilled that Edgbaston could play such a major role in Birmingham’s leisure offering last year.

“With test matches against India, Australia and the ICC Cricket World Cup on the horizon, we can look forward to continued momentum in the city’s tourism offering”.

Mark Payne, General Manager at Park Regis Birmingham, added: 

“These record-breaking figures highlight the growing potential of the UK’s second city. Birmingham is home to a thriving food and hospitality offering, with a globally renowned arts and culture scene, underpinned by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and The Birmingham Hippodrome. The recent handover for the 2022 Commonwealth Games has made it very real and clear that Birmingham is the city to watch.

Due to the increasing number of visitors to the city, The Park Regis Birmingham has been going from strength to strength since opening. We have recently broken ground on our new sky-high conferencing suite on Level 16 to accommodate the growing professional community in the city. Birmingham is fast becoming the first choice for delegates – and we can’t wait to welcome them.”

Housing First: Funding boost to tackle rough sleeping in Birmingham

Three areas in England are set to launch new pilot projects to support rough sleepers with complex needs get off the streets into stable and affordable accommodation, Housing Secretary Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP has announced today (9 May 2018).

The projects in Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region and the West Midlands Combined Authority will offer individuals intensive support to recover from complex health issues, for example substance abuse and mental health difficulties and sustain their tenancies.

The pilot projects will be based on Housing First, an internationally proven approach to supporting rough sleepers into long-term accommodation.

Funding for the Government’s Housing First Pilots was announced at Autumn Budget.

Councillor Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council commented, “We welcome the announcement of the funding for the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) Housing First bid. Birmingham has long recognised the value of the Housing First model which provides a housing solution for the most vulnerable people facing homelessness in our city.

“We are pleased to be leading the development of the bid alongside our local authority partners as part of the WMCA. Delivering a Housing First pilot will be a key element in implementing both the Birmingham City Council Homelessness Prevention Strategy and the Regional Homelessness Taskforce work.”

Housing Secretary Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP said: “The evidence shows Housing First has an incredible rate of success in providing rough sleepers with the support they need to get off the streets and to rebuild their lives.

“We are investing over £1.2 billion to break the homelessness cycle, but we know there’s more to do to help people off the streets for good. This is why the Government is leading the way in implementing Housing First in England.

“I believe these pilots will have a positive impact in their areas and I look forward to hearing about their successes over the coming months.”

Jacqui Kennedy, corporate director for place at Birmingham City Council said, “Homelessness prevention and programmes such as Housing First is something we have been working hard towards for many years. The allocation of funding to develop a pilot for Housing First across the West Midlands is a first step towards achieving this. I wholeheartedly welcome the opportunity to learn from the outcomes of the pilot and explore innovative ways to prevent and respond to homelessness.”

Housing First is a tried and tested approach to tackling long-term rough sleeping that puts the emphasis on finding individuals a secure and affordable home to live in, while providing them with expert support to rebuild their lives.

In Europe, Housing First projects have been successful at ending homelessness for at least 8 out of 10 people in the scheme. This is compared to hostel-based accommodation which has resulted in between 40% and 60% of users with complex needs leaving, or ejected, before their homelessness is resolved.

Today’s announcement builds on measures the Government is bringing forward to halve rough sleeping by 2022 and end it altogether by 2027, including:

  • A new Rough Sleeping Team made up of rough sleeping and homelessness experts with specialist knowledge across a wide-range of areas from housing, mental health and addiction;
  • A £30 million fund for 2018 to 2019 with further funding agreed for 2019 to 2020 targeted at local authorities with high numbers of people sleeping rough. These areas will be supported by the new Rough Sleeping Team to develop local interventions to reduce the numbers of those sleeping rough; and
  • £100,000 funding to support frontline Rough Sleeping workers to make sure they have the right skills and knowledge to work with vulnerable rough sleepers.

The Government is additionally working with the National Housing Federation to look at providing additional, coordinated move-on accommodation for rough sleepers.