Plea for Bridport Foyer closure rethink: Youngsters could leave next month (From Bridport and Lyme Regis News)
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Plea for Bridport Foyer closure rethink: Youngsters could leave next month
VULNERABLE youngsters have pleaded for a re-think on the shock closure of Bridport’s pioneering Foyer scheme.
Stunned local politicians now want to force the authorities concerned to reconsider the move, which will see an end to the 24-hour supervised residential care and support for young adults at the Foyer.
The 17 young residents currently looked after at West Rivers House in West Allington, Bridport will be moved out after the current contract ends next month.
Dorset County Council pays for the service and has awarded the contract to Bournemouth Churches Housing Association after current providers YOU Trust did not bid because of reduced funding.
Magna’s head of housing Jez Morris said it was informed in December that West Rivers House was no longer needed.
The social housing provider is now looking at its options for the building in West Allington and is willing to consider approaches from interested parties who might use the whole building in its current form.
There are 16 units in the Foyer, which opened in 1996, which will be replaced by Bournemouth Churches Housing Association (BCHA) with accommodation from social landlords and private landlords.
The authorities admit that not all of those units have yet been found, but Dorset County Council says there will be 17 places in Bridport and more in Weymouth, 31 units; Dorchester, 17 units and Sherborne, six units, as well as some in Christchurch and Wareham.
Assurances have been given that those who want to stay in Bridport will be able to.
But young residents say that the Foyer has provided a lifeline for them and in many cases, saved them from a life on the streets.
A spokesman for BCHA said the youngsters will still be supported in their new homes with various different options – including a 24-hour ‘I-support’ scheme.
“There are a range of options available, including an intensively 24-hour staffed scheme.
“Support will be provided on a visiting support basis that is needs led and outcome focused for the individual. “Each person will have a designated keyworker who will be working with them to develop their independence.
“Residents will receive support based around their individual needs, including learning and personal development, with an emphasis on responsibility, skills and increasing their capacity to exercise choice and achieve greater independence in all aspects of their life.
“These skills will be delivered over the course of a 20-week programme.
“Residents will also be able to access support 24 hours a day, seven days a week through BCHA’s innovative technology centre ‘I-Support’.
“This flexible support solution will enable residents to contact skilled support workers when needed.
“I-Support will also enhance the safety of the young people by providing new security features to their homes.”
A Dorset County Council spokesman said: “This is part of a larger service, which has achieved efficiencies by changing contract terms with the provider. “YOU Trust did not re-tender for the contract, and BCHA were able to offer a larger service with an extended number of smaller housing units that better suits the needs of the residents. “Dorset County Council reviews all contracts with external providers on a regular basis to ensure quality of services remain high and also achieve best value for money.”
The change leaves a huge question mark hanging over the Oh Crumbs café, whose leases of part of the building runs out in August.
Magna owns the building and says it cannot make the space available for Oh Crumbs indefinitely.
It would, it said, consider approaches from other interested parties who were able to allow Oh Crumbs to remain in the building. The Oh Crumbs lease with Magna will end in August 2013 unless another viable solution, which enables them to remain, is found. A spokesman for Dorset County Council, which has already identified the cafe building as likely to be surplus to requirements, said: “Oh Crumbs is a highly valued service, and the council is hoping to negotiate an extended lease at the Foyer with Magna.
Cross-party campaign call to change minds
BRIDPORT politicians want an emergency meeting with decision makers after hearing plans for the Foyer.
Town and county councillor Karl Wallace is approaching West Dorset MP Oliver Letwin to take up the issue and is calling for a cross-party campaign to halt the closure.
“The Foyer is an ideal model because when youngsters are in crisis, they need that 24-hour care,” he said.
District and town councillor Ros Kayes said: “This is a really alarming time to be reducing provision for homeless 16-25 year olds in Bridport.
“Especially with the changes in benefits coming up, these young people, if they are unable to live at home, need all the support they can get. Many of them are troubled and need the kind of guidance and help offered by support staff at a body like the Foyer.
“It’s quite possible that some of them will end up on the street. It may well not be appropriate for them to be housed in the community. Many of them are good kids, who have benefited from the support services offered by the Foyer and gone on to turn their lives around, but take that support away, and you have a very different story.
“I am calling on the support of West Dorset and Dorset County Council to help us with this – it’s devastating news and we must try to save it if we can.”
She added: “In the last month the Prince's Trust have located in Bridport to deliver some brilliant training.
“They are based at the Foyer, and they are probably going to have to leave at the end of their first three months.
“I want to know why.”
Funding cut prevented trust tender
A spokesman for YOU Trust said: “The YOU Trust has delivered services for homeless young people in Dorset since 2006 with very successful outcomes. The service was recently retendered with a new specification.
“We were saddened that we were unable to bid for the new contract due to the reduction in funding. We will be working with Dorset County Council to assure a seamless transfer of both service and staff to Bournemouth Churches Housing Association, who have been awarded the contract from April 1.”