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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (HOUSING AND PUBLIC PROTECTION)

 

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 4th February, 2015.

 

Present:  Councillor C.J. Williams (Chairman); Councillor J. Drysdale (Vice-Chairman); Councillors J.C. Bird, Mrs. C.L. Curtis, Mrs. A.J. Moore and E. Williams.

 

 

840     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE – 

 

These were received from Councillors Ms. R.F. Probert, R.P. Thomas and Mrs. M.R. Wilkinson; and Messrs. G. Amos and B. Fisher (Tenant Working Group).

 

 

841     MINUTES – 

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 7th January, 2015 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

842     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

843     SUPPORTING PEOPLE LOCAL COMMISSIONING PLAN 2015-2018 (REF) –

 

Approval was sought from Cabinet on 12th January 2015 to adopt the Supporting People Local Commissioning Plan 2015-2018 and to submit it to the Regional Collaborative Committee for the Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff.

 

The Supporting People Programme was the policy and funding framework for delivering housing related support to vulnerable people in different types of accommodation and across all tenures. 

 

At a local level the Programme put forward a number of strategic aims, reflecting Community Safety and Health and Social Care and Wellbeing objectives.  It aimed to deliver high quality and strategically planned housing-related support services that were cost effective, complemented existing services and provided services users with the best possible outcomes. 

 

In accordance with the Welsh Government Guidance for Supporting People, all Local Authorities were required to develop a three year Local Commissioning Plan for submission to the Regional Collaborative Committee for the Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff for consideration by 31st January 2015. 

 

The development and co-ordination of the Local Commissioning Plan was undertaken by the Supporting People Local Planning Group (SPLPG) as required by WG.  Membership of the SPLPG was made up of Officers from the Housing Division, Social Services Department, the Wales Probation Service, Cardiff and Vale University Health Board and the Voluntary Sector (the Vale Housing and Homelessness Forum).

 

Following the announcement of the WG draft budget in October 2014, Local Authorities received notification of their indicative Supporting People Programme Grant for 2015/16 on 7th November, 2014.  The impact in the Vale of Glamorgan was a reduction in funding of £199,859.51 or 5.45% (from £3,666,688.74 in 2014/15 to £3,466,829.23).

 

The decisions were made based on the needs mapping information and service priorities and in the knowledge that higher than required savings had already been identified for 2014/15 which in part mitigated the impact of the additional cuts to the Supporting People budget in 2015/16.  This approach was endorsed by the SPLPG and the Regional Collaborative Committee for the Vale of Glamorgan.  The analysis and approach taken was outlined on pages 20 to 26 of the Local Commissioning Plan that was attached at Appendix 1 to the report.

 

A total of 2,543 units of support funded by Supporting People had been mapped throughout the County.  The current supply of services in the Vale showed that there were high levels of support for older people and moderate numbers for people with mental health issues and learning difficulties.  There were lower levels of support specifically for clients who had a chronic illness, those with alcohol or drug issues and those who had offended or who were in danger of offending.  This information was detailed in Graph 1 of the report.

 

The SPLPG had determined from the needs analysis that, under the Supporting People Programme, the highest priority was to develop a 24 hour supported housing service for clients with Personality Disorders in partnership with Health.  All of the new service priorities identified assisted people to maintain their home, integrate into the community and had a positive effect on the number of homeless and repeat homeless presentations.

 

The total annual revenue requirement for the new support services identified in the Local Commissioning Plan was estimated to be in the region of £364,000.  There was also a capital funding requirement for some of the projects, which had yet to be calculated.

 

The report noted that the Council had not developed an exit strategy for supporting people funded services, as the effect of a total loss of funding from WG would affect support services throughout Wales, leading to the closure or severe restrictions to the services of voluntary support organisations that were funded in this way.  This was an unlikely scenario given that Supporting People was introduced in 2003 and the number of people who required the services continued to increase across Wales. It was expected that this trend would continue in the future with the introduction of the changes to the Homelessness Legislation in April 2015 from the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 and the continued roll out of Universal Credit.

 

At the meeting the Cabinet Member for Housing, Building Maintenance and Community Safety passed on her thanks to the Strategy and Supporting People Manager and her team for all their hard work.

 

Cabinet had resolved –

 

(1)          That the Supporting People Local Commissioning Plan 2015 - 2018 as attached at Appendix 1 to the report be approved for submission to the Regional Collaborative Committee, for the Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff.

 

(2)          That the report be referred to the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) for information.

 

Having considered Graph 1 of the report, entitled 'Data on Clients’ Needs Identified 2013/14 Compared to the Supply of Services Funded through the Supporting People programme apart from Older People due to high levels of service and no unmet need', Members expressed concern at what this meant for people who had not been allocated units of support, and the view was expressed that perhaps the Council should do more to try to secure financial contributions from Health for support services where it could be shown that they were preventing people from accessing health services or bed blocking and to tell the outside providers of the consequences of the reductions in Supporting People funding. 

 

Members were advised that this was something that the officers were constantly doing.  Officers also took every opportunity to demonstrate how cost effective the services were and cited various pieces of research that had been carried out which showed that every £1 of Support People funding spent resulted in a much higher overall saving to the public purse.  Members were further advised that a mental health service had recently been reconfigured so that it could be delivered in conjunction with the rehabilitation team from health.  In addition from 1st March 2015 a new floating support service funded by Supporting People had been commissioned.  This will have a direct link to the Community Mental Health Team, to enable medication support to be accessed if the service user becomes unstable.  Both of these services will have a positive effect on health budgets by avoiding the need for crisis intervention, hospital admissions and bed blocking.  However whilst these services would result in financial savings to the Health Authority no additional resources had been awarded to the Council.

 

Whilst recognising that relationships with the Health Authority and WAG were being developed, it was felt that Mr. L. Carver, Head of Adult Services / Locality Manager be invited to attend a future meeting of the Committee to discuss with him how to meet the unmet level of need and whether there was a possibility of the Health Authority making a financial contribution to the Council. 

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the resolutions of Cabinet on 12th January 2015 be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T Mr. L. Carver, Head of Adult Services / Locality Manager, be invited to address a future meeting of the Committee.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       Having regard to the decisions of Cabinet.

 

(2)       With a view to exploring all options.

 

 

844     REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL TO 31ST DECEMBER 2014 (DDS AND DVSH) –

 

Committee was advised of the position in respect of revenue and capital expenditure for the period 1st April to 31st December 2014 regarding those revenue and capital budgets which fell within the Committee’s remit. 

 

The current forecast for the Revenue Budget was for a balanced budget. 

 

Public Sector Housing (HRA) – the HRA budgets had been amended to allow for any in year underspends to be utilised on fire risk assessments and resulting remedial works within the Council’s blocks of flats and resurfacing of highways on Housing land.  To allow effective management of the budget, £251k for highway resurfacing on Housing land had been moved to the capital Housing Improvement Programme, funded via Capital Expenditure from Revenue Account (CERA) and £300k for Fire Risk Assessments and associated works had been vired to the Housing Repairs budget to form part of the planned maintenance programme.  In addition, there had been a transfer of £54k from the Housing Repairs Budget to the capital Housing Improvement Programme via CERA to allow completion of WHQS elements at Redlands House.  Any further underspends would be used to fund the Housing Investment Programme and thereby reduce the requirement for Prudential Borrowing in 2014/15. 

 

General Fund Housing – there was currently a £346k underspend against profiled budget due to the savings being made on the use of Temporary Accommodation for the homeless.  If the current trend continued, it was anticipated that the General Fund Housing budget would outturn at around £390k underspent.  Due to uncertain pressures going forward, it was proposed that any underspend at year end be set aside to fund homelessness issues in future years. 

 

Private Sector Housing – there was currently a favourable variance to the profiled budget of £18k for this service.  There had been additional income from management fees for Disabled Facilities Grants due to additional capital works being completed this year.  This was offset by lower than anticipated income from the Renewal Area, as the works in the Upper Holton Road Commercial Area required a contribution from property owners which had had an effect on the take-up of the works.  Though the situation was improving and works were about to start on site, there could be a lower than budgeted fee income for the Renewal Area team.  It was however expected that the service would still outturn on target by year end.

 

Public Protection – there was currently a favourable variance of £13k to the profiled budget.  Income for the division was still ahead of profile, as had previously been advised.  The rate had slowed during December however, but it was still anticipated that the service would outturn on target by year end.  Committee was reminded that the Emergency Planning section had been transferred to Visible Services and Housing, as of 1st November 2014. 

 

Other services were anticipated to outturn on target by year end.

 

Appendix 3 to the report detailed the financial progress on the Capital Programme as at 31st December 2014. 

 

Penarth Renewal Area – due to additional take up by residents in the Upper Holton Road Residential Scheme, Cabinet would be requested to vire £66k from Penarth Renewal Area to Castleland Renewal Area.  The amended budgets in 2014/15 for Castleland Renewal Area would be £723k and £50k for Penarth Renewal Area.

 

For all schemes were it was evident that the full year’s budget would not be spent during the year, the relevant officers were requested to provide an explanation for the shortfall and this would be reported to the earliest available Cabinet.

 

Having considered the report, it was

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the position with regard to the 2014/15 Revenue and Capital Budgets be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

That Scrutiny Committee note the position with regard to the 2014/15 revenue and capital monitoring.

 

 

845     OPTIONS FOR INCREASING OLDER PERSONS’ ACCOMMODATION (DVSH) –

 

Committee received information on the Council’s options for increasing the supply of older persons’ accommodation in the Vale of Glamorgan across all tenures. 

 

The Vale of Glamorgan had a small supply of specialist or designated older persons’ housing (excluding care provision); approximately 950 properties, including flats and bungalows.  These were located across the county, although the proportion of such properties in Barry was considerably larger.  Most older persons’ housing was managed by Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) and was available for rent (89%).  There was also a limited supply of older persons’ housing available to own or part own (11%). 

 

The limited supply of older persons’ specialist housing available to privately rent or own fell noticeable short, especially when considering that the majority of older people currently lived in a property which they owned or rented privately.  This shortfall was reflected in the profile of older persons who applied for social housing; over 50% of Homes4U applicants over the age of 50 did not currently live in the social rented sector and 15% were homeowners.

 

'Ageing in place' and remaining at home were often stated as being the best solution for remaining independent in later life.  However whilst many people would wish to remain at home, there were also factors which motivated an older person to move home; for example, moving to a more manageable, smaller or supported property which may improve a person’s ability to live independently.

 

In order to meet the housing needs of the ageing population in the Vale of Glamorgan, there was a need to explore the options for increasing the supply of older persons’ accommodation in the Vale of Glamorgan across all tenures. 

 

An Accommodation with Care Group had been established to look at changing needs and expectations, alongside resources issues and demand pressures, in order to increase the range of options available to older people across all sectors.  The Group was considering a wide range of service developments and was chaired by the Head of Business Management and Innovation.  Members of the Group were Head of Housing and Building Services, Head of Finance, Major Projects Manager and a representative from the Business Improvement Team. 

 

The priorities identified by the Accommodation with Care Group would inform the priorities for housing development led by the Council’s Housing Department.

 

In order to explore how the Council could assist to increase the supply of older persons’ accommodation in the Vale of Glamorgan, the options were presented by tenure:

 

Affordable Housing

 

The development of affordable housing options for older people was considered as part of the Council’s Strategic Housing Function.  Affordable housing was delivered on affordable housing development which received financial subsidy in the form of grant funding from Welsh Government and through S106 contribution of market housing developments. 

 

Grant Funding

 

Social Housing Grant (SHG) was a capital grant made available by Welsh Government to RSLs to provide new affordable housing for rent or for low cost home ownership.

 

The Council had fully committed the current three year grant allocation up to 2015/16 and had committed to allocating the anticipated future grant funding up to 2017/18.  The use of SHG was currently prioritised for the development of one and two bedroom properties to enable people to downsize from existing housing stock into more appropriately sized accommodation.  There had been a significant increase in demand for one and two bedroom properties due to the welfare reform changes, primarily the removal of the spare room subsidy, and the shortage of small properties available in the Vale of Glamorgan.

 

One and two bedroom properties were included on all new affordable housing developments due to the increased demand.  However, in order to promote social cohesion and to minimise antisocial behaviour on these sites, the number of small units was not being maximised.  The Council could consider increasing the number of small properties on affordable housing sites by including a mix of properties for general needs and restricting designated older persons’ accommodation by an age limit.  

 

In the future, there was also the option to prioritise the use of SHG for the development of older persons’ accommodation, but this needed to be balanced against the priorities for other age and client groups, including the demand for accessible housing, supported and specialised housing, as well as general needs properties.

 

The type of properties which older people wanted and needed also had to be considered, as these could require a higher amount of grant funding.  The options which are most costly include bungalows due to the footprint of land required and accommodation with facilities on site, such as Extra Care housing due to the additional cost associated with providing services such as restaurants and communal space. 

 

The Acceptable Cost Guidance (2012) published by Welsh Government for Social Housing Grant funded housing in Wales demonstrated the varying cost for different types of accommodation, including those which would be suitable for older people.

 

Based on these costs, the delivery of bungalows would not yield as many properties as flats within the grant allocation the county received.  This needed to be balanced against the significant housing need of the ageing population. 

 

Additional funding opportunities may be available from alternative sources, for example money generated from the sale of Gardenhurst had been put aside to support future social care developments for older people.

 

S106 Contributions of Market Housing Developments

 

Affordable housing was also gained through the S106 contributions from market housing developments.  This planning condition could either be met by providing affordable housing onsite or via an offsite financial contribution.  

 

Suitable properties provided onsite, such as small houses and flats, could provide an option for additional older people’s accommodation.  However, the homes built by market developers would not always be appropriate for older people; for example larger houses, properties with steps up and flats without lifts.  The Council would need to be mindful of designating unsuitable properties for older people, as although the property may be suitable for the older person upon allocation, it may become unsuitable in the future if they developed mobility or other disability issues.

 

Offsite financial contributions could be used to develop additional affordable housing on alternative sites.  This could include the development of properties specifically for older people, including accessible, level access and purpose built properties.  This could then be developed as an affordable housing site.

 

Council Housing

 

The Council owns and manages a stock of sheltered housing and properties designated for older people.

 

The last Council owned home built in the Vale of Glamorgan was constructed in 1999.  The development of Council homes ended when borrowing caps were applied to Local Authority Housing Revenue Accounts by HM Treasury.  The Vale of Glamorgan Council, along with the ten other stock-retaining Local Authorities would exit the HRA system in March 2015.  Whilst a borrowing cap would be maintained in order to continue to meet the Welsh Housing Quality Standard, there was also capacity within the Council’s Business Plan to consider the development of new Council owned homes.

 

The Council’s Housing Department owned land which could be used for the development of new Council homes.  The potential for the Council to have its own house building programme, in addition to the programme of development using SHG, would contribute to an increased supply of affordable housing.

 

Market Housing

 

The development of market housing for older people was outside of the Council’s influence, affected by market conditions and the development aspirations of market house builders. 

 

Market housing was essentially market led; if demand for smaller homes increased as the population aged, then the private sector may respond to this demand.

 

The requirement for volume house builders to provide market housing suitable for older people could be considered, through the interpretation on national Planning Policy.  Market house builders could be encouraged to include properties which were suitable for older people, for example two bedroom houses and bungalows suitable for people looking to downsize, within the mix of properties built on each site. 

 

Where the Council was selling land, there was an option to restrict the land use to the development of residential accommodation for older people, i.e. aged over 50.  This restriction could however have an impact on the sales value.

 

In addition to market development by small and volume house builders,  RSLs could develop market housing for rent or sale.  These properties could be designed to meet the housing needs of older people, either as a stand-alone market housing development or on cross-subsidised sites which included affordable housing.

 

Taking all of the aforementioned factors into account, the future provision of accommodation for older people would be addressed via the Local Housing Strategy 2015-20.  The Strategy was shortly to be considered by Cabinet and, once agreed, would be amended annually to address changes in demand, finances, legislation and National Housing Policies.

 

During the ensuing discussion, a number of points emerged, namely:

 

-               The view was expressed that the Planning Division of the Welsh Government should encourage the development of older persons’ accommodation

-               The development of Market Housing would take place in the most prosperous centres of population within the Vale of Glamorgan

-               The Vale of Glamorgan’s Housing Strategy Team was trying to bring as many affordable housing sites forward as possible with its grant allocation and to maximise the affordable housing delivered on every market site

-               The site of Bryneithin had been earmarked for older persons’ accommodation, however this would only yield market housing as the Housing Department had to accept an off-site contribution in lieu of the required on-site affordable housing because the service charges levied could be unaffordable for older people on a limited income

-               The strategic role of Housing was not always understood as this was not part of the landlord function

-               It was requested that further profiling of older people in the Vale of Glamorgan takes place, particularly in respect of the typical ages when they wanted to downsize to smaller accommodation and that this be reported to Committee, along with any best practice identified from other Local Authorities when Housing Services next had anything significant to report in respect of older persons’ accommodation

-               RSLs could be invited to attend a future meeting of the Committee to advise on how they dealt with the provision of older persons’ accommodation

-               The Council had not built Council owned homes since 1999 but once the changes to the Housing Revenue Account Subsidy System take place in April 2015, it will again be possible.  As there was no one in-house with the required development expertise to take this forward, a partner housing association had been commissioned by Housing Services to undertake a feasibility study over the next few months on suitable Council development sites.

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the options for increasing the supply of older persons’ accommodation in the Vale of Glamorgan across all tenures be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

For information and to inform Members of options for increasing the supply of older persons’ accommodation.

 

 

846     YOUTH OFFENDING SERVICE – SIX MONTHS PERFORMANCE REPORT FOR THE PERIOD APRIL 2014 – SEPTEMBER 2014 (DSS) –

 

Committee was informed of the performance of the Youth Offending Service during the period April 2014 to September 2014.

 

As part of its grant funding terms and conditions, the Youth Offending Service (YOS) was required by the Youth Justice Board to undertake performance reporting in relation to a number of key performance indicators. 

 

It was reported that performance reporting by the YOS was always approximately one quarter behind because of the need for the Youth Justice Board to validate data before circulation.

 

Performance in relation to first time entrants to the Youth Justice System demonstrated a reduction of 14.7% since 2012.  Performance was based upon a 12 months rolling cohort which meant that, on a quarterly basis, the number included within the last quarter fell out of the cohort as numbers within the current quarter were included.

 

An analysis of first time entrants was currently taking place with the aim of consulting with partners across the Local Authority to ensure that those young people most at risk of offending and antisocial behaviour would continue to be targeted.  The outcome of this work would inform a refreshed Prevention Strategy. 

 

Re-offending continued to be a priority for the YOS.  The figures showed an increase in re-offending for the period 1st January 2012 to December 2012.  It had been recognised nationally that young people now entering into the Youth Justice System had more complex needs. 

 

The custodial rate for the first six month period showed a more positive picture than the previous year, with half of the young people being sentenced to custody.  The YOS previously identified a higher than average rate of custody for 2013/14.   As a result, analysis had been undertaken internally and an exercise had also been completed with Cardiff YOS to identify if it was experiencing similar issues.  This work indicated that Cardiff young people were generally sentenced to custody by Crown Court rather than Magistrates Court.  An event for Magistrates was to be held by both Cardiff and Vale YOS to highlight the complexities of young people now within the system and the range of interventions available to manage them within the community, to promote the fact that the use of custody should be seen as a 'last resort'. 

 

Engagement in education, training and employment had been identified as a priority area for the YOS Management Board as not all the young people had been receiving the statutory 25 hours of education.  Performance for the first six months of this year showed an increase in the number of hours young people were receiving – up to 21 hours for school age, which was a positive step.

 

Young people over 16 years of age and looking for training or employment could experience a range of obstacles, including the fact that there were only two training providers within the Vale of Glamorgan.  Once young people had exhausted these options, prospects of placement were reduced.  Young people saw attending providers in Cardiff as problematic and barriers needed to be overcome to empower them to access provision.  The complexities and behaviours the young people displayed could prove a challenge in relation to management and sustainability of placements.  The YOS employed a part time Careers Wales worker to assist young people to develop individual career management skills.  However, the changing labour market and opportunities for accessing educational or training opportunities could mean that some young people needed a heavy investment of time in order to develop sufficient skills prior to accessing placements. 

 

In respect of access to suitable accommodation, there were no concerns currently identified.

 

Performance was positive in respect of access to appropriate support for substance misuse difficulties, with 100% engagement in assessment and 90.9% engagement in treatment within 10 days, and 100% engagement within 20 days.

 

Members enquired of the YOS Manager if there were any particular matters of concern and were advised that:

 

-               The issue of funding from the Statutory Partnership would impact across the whole of the Service

-               The Performance reporting mechanism related to performance against Court Orders whereas much of the work of the Service was “preventative†in nature.  This work was not reported through the figures before Committee, although local performance reporting was prepared.

 

Members felt that the local performance monitoring should be brought before the Committee.

 

Additionally, Members noted that the figures included within the Performance Report were 18 months old, and were informed that although the data to inform the Youth Justice performance measures was collected from the Police National Computer, the Police were not responsible for producing the performance information for YOS.  This came directly from the Youth Justice Board.

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the content of the Performance report be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T when the next six monthly Performance report be brought before the Committee, it also include the local performance data.

 

Reason for recommendations

 

(1&2)  To ensure that Elected Members are able to exercise effective oversight of the Youth Offending Service performance against the three National and three Devolved Performance Indicators.

 

 

 

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