My Space statement in response to Panorama

It is distressing that My Space was part of a BBC Panorama programme on Monday 15th August into the lease-based housing model.

We provide Exempt Accommodation for over 1500 vulnerable adults with a broad range of complex needs including those who have addiction or serious mental health issues.

They are supported by our dedicated and caring team of 250 staff who provide a high quality service to tenants who would often otherwise be homeless, in safe and secure accommodation. Everyone who works at My Space does so because they care passionately about supporting these people to live as independently as possible.

The housing needs of this marginalised group of people is not easily met by the traditional housing sector. There is a critical shortage of affordable homes and we have a waiting list of over 1000 people. We operate a lease-based model for providing this much-needed housing alongside numerous other providers in the sector.

We wanted to address a number of issues raised by Panorama:

  • Our tenants are supported by a large network of partner agencies delivering care and support including mental health specialists, the police and social services. Our Housing Support Officers work alongside these agencies to support tenants to maintain successful tenancies and improve their quality of life.

The death of any of our tenants is a tragedy and our sympathies remain with Mr Andrew’s sister who was part of the programme and his family and friends. As upsetting as the circumstances were, the Coroner did not reach the conclusion that My Space bore any responsibility for his death.

Any death deeply affects everyone involved including the partner agencies. There has not been a single safeguarding report, Coroners finding or a Serious Incident Review that has raised an issue of negligence by My Space in any way.

  • It was disappointing to see two of our properties included in the programme due to anti-social behaviour. Sadly, this is not uncommon due to the vulnerabilities and complex needs of the tenants being supported.

We accept that there were some significant failings with how we dealt with the management of Arcam House in 2019. The Chair of My Space and members of our management team took part in open meetings with the local community to address the problems they were facing. We also made improvements as a result of what happened at Arcam and introduced a new process for referrals and assessments.

  • At Moon Avenue in Blackpool, in line with our policies and procedures, we have implemented an Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan and we’re continuing to work in partnership with the local authority and the police. We are supporting those affected and are in the process of rehousing two tenants who have been carrying out anti-social behaviour.
  • We were surprised and concerned to hear from the mum of the tenant in Bolton. We are in contact with her and we are now arranging to move her son into a new My Space property.

These examples should not take away from the high level of service delivered to the majority of our tenants and the praise and recognition we have received from local authorities across the country for our support.

  • My Space has only ever claimed, and been reimbursed for, Housing Benefit for Exempt Accommodation. We do not claim benefits for personal care.
  • Mr O’Rourke is one of a number of developers and suppliers who we work with. He plays no role in Board decision making and all transactions with him and his companies are conducted at arm’s length. As a result of engaging with the BBC we recognise, however, that there could be a perception to the contrary and, as a result, Trustees who are employees or former employees of Mr O’Rourke and his companies will be stepping down from the Board.

We acknowledge that in the past we have made mistakes in our governance and we are currently looking at all of our governance procedures and reviewing and strengthening our Board structure.

  • We are currently actively reviewing all aspects of our compliance, alongside a respected firm of solicitors specialising in this area. We have been in constant dialogue with the Regulator of Social Housing and have recently taken the decision to apply for deregistration on the basis that we provide exempt accommodation and not social housing.

Deregistration will not affect our mission to support vulnerable people or the service we provide to our tenants. We will, of course, continue to work closely with the Charities Commission and remain under their scrutiny and interrogation.