Agenda Item No.
THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL
CABINET: 30TH JULY, 2012
REFERENCE FROM SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (HOUSING AND PUBLIC PROTECTION): 18TH JULY, 2012
" CONSULTATION ON PROPOSED HOMELESSNESS PREVENTION STRATEGY 2012/2017 (DVSH) -
The views of the Scrutiny Committee were sought in respect of the above draft Strategy which would be the subject of a consultation exercise with various relevant stakeholders.
The Council was facing significant pressures which were likely to worsen as the impact of the economic downturn continued to bite; the Welfare Reform agenda was introduced which would see Housing Benefit reduced for single claimants under 35 years and for existing social housing tenants of working age under-occupying social tenancies; and the introduction of the Universal Credit which would be paid direct to the claimant rather than the current practice of housing benefits being paid to the landlord.
To date, the Council had experienced an 11% increase in homelessness applications during 2011/12 compared to the previous year and there was every indication that the trend would continue. In addition to the matters referred to above, the Welsh Government's recent White Paper - 'Better Lives and Communities', currently subject to consultation, proposed significant additional duties on Housing Authorities in particular:
· a commitment to end family homelessness by 2019 be removing the intentionality test for households with children;
· the introduction of new corporate duty for local authorities to take all reasonable steps achieve a suitable housing solution for all households who were homeless or threatened with homelessness;
· a requirement to extend the statutory definition of threatened with homelessness to 28 days to 56 days.
The Council had a small housing stock of 3,950 Council dwellings and a Registered Social Landlord stock 2,377, amounting to approximately 11% of the total stock in the Vale of Glamorgan. It was noted that the Welsh average was 16% social housing stock.
Currently due to the make up of the Council stock, single people/childless couples accepted as homeless were housed primarily into 2 bedroomed general purpose flats. However, post the introduction of the Welfare Reform Agenda in April 2013, it was likely that individuals would refuse that size accommodation on the basis of financial hardship, which would result in higher bed and breakfast usage with additional costs to the Council.
The Council in the past had been successful in preventing homelessness through a range of early intervention measures and in developing a portfolio of temporary housing through partnerships with private sector landlords, registered social landlords, a Social Lettings Agency and our own housing resource. However, the Council had 85 accepted homeless households in temporary housing awaiting rehousing.
The proposed draft Strategy would build on homeless prevention and early intervention, including initiatives to spend to save; school awareness sessions and a multi-agency One Stop Shop for 16-26 year olds. In addition the draft Strategy would also focus on increasing supply both in respect of working with partners to bring empty homes back into use in the private sector; freeing up the private rented sector through the 'Lend a Hand' mortgage initiative; encouraging private landlords to let via a number of initiatives to the Council's homeless clients; and to convert existing privately owned buildings into shared housing.
In the future any new housing build with Registered Social Landlord partners would also need to take the needs of smaller households into account.
The draft Strategy in itself set out the Council's plans for its homelessness prevention initiatives over the next five years details of which were set out in Appendix 1 to the report and this outlined a co-ordinated, proactive approach to tackling homelessness in partnership with relevant Council departments and service users.
The Strategy had been developed in partnership with the Council's Public Sector Housing, Environmental Health (Housing), Financial Services (Housing Benefits), Social Services, Supporting People, Housing Strategy and various external partner agencies.
Discussion ensued on the contents of the draft Strategy and in particular to the detail set out within the proposed Action Plan. Whilst the Committee accepted that the document in itself as a strategy document was to be welcomed they felt that there was insufficient data included within the Action Plan and appropriate targets which in themselves would set the scene in terms of the scale of the issues the Council would need to address. In particular specific reference was made to the absence of data in regard to homelessness and it was requested that such information be considered for inclusion within the draft Action Plan before the final Strategy was agreed by the Cabinet.
In addition to the above concerns, Councillor Drysdale referred to the implications of the Welfare Reform Agenda and the particular aspects in terms of how they impacted on over-occupancy and financial hardship that tenants were likely to experience as a consequence. He enquired of officers if consideration would be given to exploring initiatives such as tenants being permitted/encouraged to take on a lodger with a view to alleviating potential financial hardship. In response the Operational Manager indicated that the Council already had a number of initiatives embedded which worked in partnership alongside a number of external stakeholders and he referred to for example, the Vale Assisted Tenancy Service, the Tenant Incentive Scheme. He also referred to the comments made regarding appropriate data to be included within the Action Plan and indicated that officers were currently looking at the feasibility of developing a database with interested stakeholders.
In addition to the above matters, brief discussion also centred on the current homelessness service provided by the Council which was a predominantly prevention based service.
Having regard to the above comments and the contents of the proposed draft Strategy it was
(1) T H A T Cabinet approves the detail of the draft 'Homelessness Prevention Strategy 2012/2017' and associated Action Plan subject to further consideration being given to the inclusion of all appropriate data including targets within the said Action Plan.
(2) T H A T a further report be submitted to this Scrutiny Committee on conclusion of the consultation exercise for further views to be obtained prior to the final Strategy and Action Plan being approved by Cabinet.
Reasons for recommendations
(1) To inform the Cabinet of the Scrutiny Committee's views on the matter.
(2) To allow the Scrutiny Committee a further opportunity to provide further input to the process on receipt of the full consultation responses prior to the final Strategy and Action Plan being approved by the Cabinet.
Attached as Appendix - Report to Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection): 18th July, 2012