Statement on Oxfordshire Safeguarding Adults Board review into the deaths of homeless people

Published: Tuesday, 24th November 2020

Today the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Adults Board (OSAB) published a safeguarding adults review into the deaths of nine homeless people in Oxfordshire. Oxford City Council's statement in response:

We extend our condolences to the families and friends of the nine people who died in tragic circumstances on the streets and in supported accommodation.

While each death is a tragedy, the brutal truth is that homelessness kills. The Office for National Statistics reports that the average age of death for a homeless person is 45 for men and 43 for women, compared with 76 and 81 in the general population. We will do everything we can to implement the recommendations of the review and reduce the risk of further deaths among homeless people.

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic and its economic impact more people are at risk of becoming homeless and will need services to support them. We will see increasing demand but without additional resources, so it is more important than ever that agencies work closely together to support people at risk of homelessness before they reach crisis point. One of the OSAB’s main recommendations is to develop a system wide approach to tackling homelessness. We welcome this recommendation and work is already underway to develop and embed this approach across Oxfordshire.

This builds on learning from:

  • the Oxfordshire Trailblazer project, which put early intervention to prevent homelessness at the heart of its work
  • the development of Floyds Row and a new assessment model for people at risk of or experiencing rough sleeping
  • the ‘everyone in’ response to the coronavirus pandemic, which provided a unique opportunity to engage with homeless people and has produced a clearer picture of their needs than ever before

A countywide steering group is in the process of developing a strategy for tackling homelessness, with a focus on single people and rough sleepers. The steering group and Crisis commissioned a feasibility study on introducing a housing led (or rapid rehousing) approach in Oxfordshire, and a summary of this was published on 10 November. This study shifts the default response to rough sleeping from a ‘staircase’ model of supported accommodation to providing mainstream housing with the wraparound support that people need to sustain their tenancies.

The emerging strategy for tackling homelessness has a number of key elements:

  • there will be a focus on prevention to identify opportunities for early intervention across the whole system and facilitate rapid action where people are at risk of homelessness
  • all partners will adopt a whole system view, taking joint responsibility for avoiding homelessness and ending rough sleeping across Oxfordshire
  • agencies will work together to ensure that resources are used effectively to tackle homelessness
  • cross-agency training, a common approach and sharing best practice will ensure the workforce development needed to support service delivery across the system
  • services need to be redesigned and recommissioned to deliver the new approach. Commissioning will take place on a countywide basis by default
  • we will work together with people with lived experience of homelessness as well as housing and health providers to take forward the new strategy

We will work together to make the case to government for sufficient, long term funding to support our strategy and help end homelessness. The strategy, scope and commissioning approach will be agreed by the end of January 2021. New commissioned services will begin operating in April 2022.

Councillor Mike Rowley, cabinet member for affordable housing and housing the homeless

The safeguarding adults review into the deaths of homeless people is on the OSAB website.