John Healey, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Housing, paid a visit to Petrus Supported Housing on Beswicke Royds Street on Wednesday (31 May).
Accompanied by Rochdale’s Labour candidate for MP, Tony Lloyd, Mr Healey met with Martin Topham, Petrus’ project manager, Laura Ulijaszek, manager of the Petrus Hub, Denis Skelton, co-ordinator of Petrus, Sonia Denham, deputy co-ordinator, Peter Galvin, trustee for Petrus, Jane McWilliam, housing help on prescription advisor, Pauline Cooper, a volunteer and cycling instructor and Caroline Parker-Holland of Cycling UK, which is supporting a Petrus Project.
The Shadow Minister said: “I’m here today because Tony wanted me to see the work that Petrus do.
“They need backing for the government for some work that they do and part of my discussion today involved Labour’s plans in Government after the election to help deal with the housing crisis in this country.”
One of the key points raised by Mr Healey included introducing a ‘clearing house scheme’, which he said was rolled out through London 20 years ago.
The scheme provides supported housing for people with a history of rough sleeping with properties provided by local Housing Associations.
Mr Healey said: “It required the Housing Authorities to earmark around 2,000 homes so they are ready to move people like Petrus help on when they are ready to settle.”
He added: “I’d require this to double in London and for Local Housing Authorities across the country to do the same. We’d help ensure like for like which would immediately create more capacity in the system.
“It would still be possible if we don’t get into the Government with a good leader like Tony. Housing Associations are pretty stable, they’re big and have the resources, I see no reason why we couldn’t deliver a scheme.”
Mr Topham mentioned how Rochdale has ‘too much of the wrong kind of housing’, including flats, with Mr Lloyd agreeing: “You can’t put families with young children there.”
Labour’s policies include a ‘secure homes guarantee’: a pledge to build a million new homes in five years with an investment for half a million council homes. They plan to introduce rent controls, secure tenancies, a charter of private tenants’ rights, and increase access to affordable home ownership.
Mr Topham, Mr Galvin and Mr Skelton also gave Mr Healey an overview of the work that Petrus does, offering a range of essential day support services to vulnerable people, where those who are homeless, or are at risk of becoming homeless, can access advice and support.
Mr Topham added many of those they help feel secure and engage in the activities Petrus offer, such as the allotments and partnership projects.
Mr Skelton commented that Rochdale has a ‘well-funded local Clinical Commissioning Group fund’ that has proved useful for small innovative projects like Petrus’ community gardens and allotments.
The discussion turned to mental health with Mr Healey praising Petrus for helping one user of the service whom he spoke to upon his arrival. He said: “It’s a much better way of helping him.”
Mr Topham agreed: “It’s more creative and a cheaper way of helping.”
Ms McWilliam spoke about how social prescription is becoming a recognised service, discussing a pilot scheme with medical centres, showing how housing and health are connected. Ms Holland-Parker added how, when they become involved in a project, men are more likely to open up about their problems.
Ms Ulijaszek gave an insight of crisis support provided by the Greater Manchester Women’s Support Alliance to support needs across the board, including families.