CONCERNS have been raised over housing offenders and people with complex needs in supported accommodation near an infant school.

The Home Group accommodation on Peter Street in Whitehaven, which is yards from St James’ C of E Infant School, has been housing ‘people who have fallen on hard times’ since December.

Brian O’Kane, a Whitehaven town councillor and governor for St James’ C of E Infant School, believes the location is ‘inappropriate’.

He has also hit out at Home Group for failing to consult with the town council before the scheme went ahead.

Home Group say they have received only two complaints since the service was set up.

Cllr O’Kane said: “There appears to have been a range of issues in that area specifically related to reports of bad behaviour, drink and drug use, etc, that appear to be causing significant problems to residents.

“It’s something that us as a council need to focus on and work with Home Group to try and improve the overall circumstances to try and address the minority problem that is causing significant issues for other people in the locality.

“It is an incongruent situation to be putting people who have criminal records and specific needs right beside an infant school. As a governor of the school, I would strongly protest to that happening.

“They’re putting residents in an area that is already problematic and has been for the last few years.

“The town council has not been consulted with in any way whatsoever, which is appalling.”

Joseph Ghayouba, who represents Bransty on Cumberland Council, said: “It’s concerning that you would be having ex-offenders in such a close vicinity to a school because there’s potential for safeguarding issues.

“I would hope Home Group have appropriately risk assessed it and explored all opportunities before housing them there as a last resort.

“But they do need to be housed somewhere and it speaks to a lack of government investment in social housing.

“We have a problem around social housing generally, in terms of people from low income groups whose housing needs are not being met.

“There just isn’t the right amount of housing levels to match the demand. You are going to end up with situations like this. It’s down to the Government to invest in social housing.”

Caroline McDonald, an operations manager at Home Group, said: “Our support service on Peter Street was partly created to help tackle the ongoing issue of anti-social behaviour, as well as other issues, at the flats there.

“But ultimately, it was created to help those people in the community who have fallen on hard times and found themselves homeless, for whatever reason, and to reintegrate them back into their community where they belong.

“The scheme, which was set up in December, has been fully supported by Allerdale and Copeland councils. It also received government support, and funding, due to the lack of homeless provision and this type of support in the county.

“The service is staffed 24/7 with each resident receiving support, advice and help throughout their stay.

“We receive referrals through the local councils and complete assessments on all customers before offering a place. We work closely with multi-agencies to put support plans in place to help our customers move on, addressing any issues and work towards getting them a move into general needs housing.

“The local community were made aware of our plans at the outset and we received no objections. Since setting up the service in December we have had two complaints, which related to litter being left around and an isolated incident relating to noise.”