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MP 'not persuaded' by council reason for Whitworth House hostel funding cuts

Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner says he has not been persuaded by a letter from the county council explaining the reasons behind its decision to cut funding for a women’s hostel.

MP for Cambridge, Daniel Zeichner
MP for Cambridge, Daniel Zeichner

The MP wrote to Cambridgeshire County Council asking why it had told Whitworth House Hostel that a review had concluded the hostel’s grant should not be renewed.

The council responded that the hostel funding had been refused in part because it did not offer a ‘specialist’ service, demand for the service ‘was not evident’ and that there was an ‘over provision’ of services for young people in the Cambridge area.

Daniel Zeichner said: "The response from the County Council, whilst helpful in terms of understanding their approach to the review, did not persuade me. It has been quite remarkable how many people have contacted me to tell me about the positive impact Whitworth House has had on their lives, from across the region and beyond. My sense is that this is cost-driven, and yet another cut to Cambridge city services from a Conservative County Council."

"I am being told that Whitworth House is offering something quite unique to the women that have accessed this provision and so while I appreciate the financial pressure that the Council is under from the Government, this cannot come at the expense of valued and effective service provision."

Whitworth House provides a home for up to 15 vulnerable young women, aged 16-25, who would otherwise be at risk of homelessness. The hostel’s owners, Orwell Housing have said they would not be able to continue to run the service if their service grant is removed.

Jade Tomlinson with the petition at Whitworth House where she has been for 8 months. Picture: Keith Heppell. (8020091)
Jade Tomlinson with the petition at Whitworth House where she has been for 8 months. Picture: Keith Heppell. (8020091)

One of the residents, 19-year-old Jade Tomlinson, has launched a petition to save her home that has so far reached more than 40,000 signatures. She credits the hostel with saving her life.

In a letter to Mr Zeichner, the council said it had undertaken a review of Housing Related Support Services across Cambridgeshire to make sure all funded services offered best value and concluded that: “Whitworth House did not meet this criteria as a result of issues identified across multiple assessment areas;

• The demand for the service was not evident

• The client profile within the service did not reflect the local demography in relation to ethnicity

• Significant numbers of clients were not exiting the service in a planned way

• The service was not assessed as being a specialist service, acting as a resource for multiple areas or offering a service which is significantly different to anything else in the local area (it is not the only female-only homelessness service in Cambridge)

• Stakeholders also flagged an over-provision of services for young people in the Cambridge City area

Based on the findings of the review, Whitworth was identified as a service which did not demonstrate good value.”

MP for Cambridge, Daniel Zeichner..Picture - Richard Marsham. (8020104)
MP for Cambridge, Daniel Zeichner..Picture - Richard Marsham. (8020104)

The council has proposed that when its funding cpntract for the hostel rund out in June it will not be renewed, which means Orwell Hosuing would have to let staff go and close the facility.

However, Ruth Jackson, chair of the Whitworth Trust, a charity that supports the work of the hostel, said that the decision to remove funding was not final and that she had been in talks with the council about a way forward.

“I am able to say that hope remains for Whitworth House,” she said. “The decision to cut funding has still not been formerly made or announced -- at present it is still a 'proposal', which will go to the Children and Young People's committee in May for discussion.”

She added that pending that final decision the charity was looking at a “number of strategies for keeping the service running.”

Read more

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Dr Rowan Williams signs open letter against closure of Whitworth House

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