Cheshire West and Chester Council – reframing their homelessness service

Client: Cheshire West and Chester Council

Objective: The council had developed a new model that involved moving from larger, hostel-style accommodation to smaller supported housing schemes spread throughout communities. The council wanted to avoid future planning issues by revising its approach to community consultation about this kind of accommodation.

What we did:

  • Agreed some principles – Hough Bellis worked closely with officers and councillors to agree an approach for engagement about supported accommodation. We recognised that while the council was meeting statutory guidelines around consultation, the community, councillors and other stakeholders were frequently caught off guard by news of the plans. This put elected members and stakeholders in a tricky position as they did not know how to answer questions from local people, and meant residents were often getting their information via hearsay. We created a more open and transparent line of communication to frame these developments in the wider context of homelessness in the borough and nationally.
  • Reframed the story – The council’s approach to dealing with homelessness and rough sleeping had been successful. There should have been a sense of civic pride in the work being done. However, this was not landing with the public. We worked with the council to develop a set of key messages for its new plans for dealing with homelessness, and used case studies and digital storytelling to bring this to life.
  • Mobilised supporters – We engaged local stakeholders who shared our commitment to ending homelessness. We worked with other charities and campaigners to develop a pledge that all businesses and households could sign up to, stating their dedication to ending rough sleeping.
  • Created a fresh approach to consultation – Hough Bellis worked closely with the council’s homelessness team to develop a new consultation strategy based on our commitment to openness and transparency. We created new rules around language and tone of voice, a guide to identifying and engaging stakeholders, and a toolkit for running consultation events.

Results:

  • The first supported housing development for people facing homelessness to be put forward using the council’s new approach was launched to minimal opposition.
  • Local councillors and stakeholders have welcomed the transparency of the council’s approach, giving them a chance to visit the site and address any concerns in a coordinated way.
  • The council is now using the template developed by Hough Bellis to launch a community engagement exercise for future schemes.
  • The pledge campaign is creating a groundswell of supporters around the council’s commitment to ending homelessness and rough sleeping.

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