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Council prepares to activate Severe Weather Emergency Protocol for rough sleepers

Emergency accommodation will be offered to rough sleepers from tomorrow (Thursday) as part of the Royal Borough’s plan to support vulnerable people throughout the winter months.

Local authorities are required to offer shelter to homeless people when temperatures drop to zero degrees or below for three consecutive days.

But the council will be activating its Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) as it aims to extend its service.

Russell O’Keefe, acting managing director at the Royal Borough, told a meeting of the Planning and Housing Overview and Scrutiny Panel yesterday: “We are offering things like SWEP way beyond what I’ve seen any council offer so I think the service is in a good place.”

Last year the council accommodated 31 people over the SWEP period, with an extra 20 people seeking shelter from the cold.

Maggie Nelson, interim housing services lead, told the meeting: “This is something we do need to be careful about because while we are providing a very good service, what we don’t want to be doing is providing that service to the whole of the UK.”

Panel members also heard about the council’s long-awaited homelessness strategy which aims to reduce rough-sleeping in the borough.

The five-year plan sets out five priorities which include reducing the number of people becoming homeless, reducing the number of households in temporary accommodation and supporting people into good quality accommodation.

It also aims to reduce rough sleeping and improve customer service for people approaching housing services.

Mr O’Keefe said homelessness could only be tackled if the council worked collaboratively with partner agencies.

But Cllr Malcolm Beer (Ind, Old Windsor) said he did not think the council could achieve its aims of reducing the number of people in temporary accommodation due to a lack of affordable housing proposed in the borough.

He said: “I totally admire the ambition but I don’t think we have the ability with the housing stock to do it. We are relying on developers to provide affordable housing, but we’re not doing it ourselves.”

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