First Problem Solving Forum on homelessness

Yesterday, Tuesday 24 October 2017, the Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner (OPCC) hosted its inaugural Problem Solving Forum in partnership with Bournemouth Council for Voluntary Services (CVS).

The forum considered the issue of homelessness. Housing associations and a range of organisations providing support, mentoring and advocacy, emergency provision, drug and alcohol services, funding, outreach and specialist work with offenders and ex-offenders attended from across the county. 

Dorset Police & Crime Commissioner, Martyn Underhill said: “During my first term of office, a number of issues arose that not only affected policing, but also interacted with services provided by other organisations. 

“Upon re-election, I pledged to bring together stakeholders including those from the voluntary sector to facilitate more effective joint working on issues that are long-standing, reoccurring and require a multi-agency response. The Problem Solving Forum concept is about innovation. We need to assess problems from every angle to find sustainable solutions.”

Participants shared data, good practice and took part in structured workshops on housing, support, finance and health to identify what each organisation could offer and what gaps remain in local service provision.

Viv Aird, Chief Executive Officer for Bournemouth CVS, said: “The workshops considered both the challenges that can contribute to homelessness and the positive work that could hold part of the solution. Statutory agencies deliver an agreed number of services in relation to homelessness, but the voluntary sector heavily contributes to making Dorset a safer place and it is fantastic that we are working collectively and utilising this valuable experience.”

The PCC Innovation Fund is available for proposals borne out of the Problem Solving Forum, but will only be allocated where action plans meet strict criteria. Ideas must be scoped into business cases that outline how initiatives will make a real difference to community safety.  

The Commissioner continued: “We need fresh approaches to issues like homelessness. Rough sleeping has been a persistent and complex issue for centuries and it is unrealistic to think this can be resolved overnight. However, I am confident that we can capitalise upon the abundance of commitment that was evident at the forum.

“Among those sleeping rough in Dorset are war veterans suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder and ex-offenders who leave prison without appropriate accommodation to enable them to rebuild their lives. We must look to identify key turning points and formalise links between services to positively affect individuals’ journeys.”

Proposals from the forum will be taken forward through partnership working with relevant organisations and statutory agencies. The PCC will be looking to bring partners together in workshop settings twice annually across his term. The forums provide an opportunity to ensure policing remains responsive to emerging challenges as they arise.