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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) - 18th July, 2012

 

Report of the Director of Visible Services and Housing

 

Consultation on Proposed Homelessness Prevention Strategy 2012 - 2017

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To seek the views of Committee on proposals to consult on a ‘Homelessness Prevention Strategy 2012-2017’.

Recommendations

1.             That Committee agree the details of the draft ‘Homelessness Prevention Strategy 2012-2017’ and associated action plan.

2.             That the draft strategy and associated action plan along with any initial comments from this Committee be presented to Cabinet.

3.             That a further report be presented to this Committee on conclusion of the consultation exercise for further views to be obtained prior to the final strategy and action plan being agreed by Cabinet.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.             To obtain the agreement of this Committee to the draft strategy and action plan.

2.             To ensure that Cabinet are aware of the views of this Committee prior to agreeing the draft strategy and action plan.

3.             To provide this Committee with the opportunity to provide further input to the process on receipt of the full consultation responses prior to the final strategy and action plan being agreed.

Background

2.             This is the Council's second Homelessness Prevention Strategy, the first strategy was contained within the ‘Homelessness Strategy 2004-2009’.

3.             The Council is facing huge housing pressures which are likely to worsen as the impact of the economic downturn continues to bite; Welfare Reform is introduced which will 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 Universal Credit which will be paid direct to the claimant rather than the current practise of housing benefits being paid to the landlord.

Relevant Issues and Options

4.             We have already experienced an 11% increase in homelessness applications in 2011/12 compared to the previous year and there is every indication that this trend will continue.

5.             In addition to the factors identified in paragraph 3, the Welsh Government's recent White Paper – Better Lives & Communities, currently subject to consultation, proposes significant additional duties on Housing Authorities; in particular:-

·         a commitment to end family homelessness by 2019 by removing the intentionality test for households with children;

·         the introduction of  a new corporate duty for LAs to take all reasonable steps to achieve a suitable housing solution for all households who are homeless or threatened with homelessness;

·         a requirement to extend the statutory definition of threatened with homelessness from 28 to 56 days.

6.             One positive aspect of the White Paper is the proposal to permit LAs to discharge homelessness duty through an offer of good quality private rented housing. Though in the main the potential implications of the White Paper will be extremely challenging.

7.             In the Vale we have a small social housing stock of 3,950 Council dwellings and an RSL stock of 2,377, amounting to approximately 11% of the total stock in the Vale.  The Wales average is 16% social housing stock.

8.             Currently, due to the make up of the Council Stock, we house single people / childless couples, accepted as homeless, primarily into two bedroom general purpose flats.  Post the introduction of Welfare Reform in April 2013 most of these will refuse that size accommodation on the basis of financial hardship, which will invariably result in even higher B&B usage.

9.             The Council has 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, RSLs, a Social Lettings Agency, and our own housing resource.  Even so we currently have 85 accepted homeless households in temporary housing awaiting rehousing.

10.        There are no magic solutions, so a large element of the Strategy builds on homeless prevention and early intervention, including such initiatives as spend to save; school awareness sessions and a multi-agency One Stop Shop for 16-25 year olds.

11.        The Strategy also focuses 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 our homeless clients; and to convert existing privately owned buildings into shared housing.

12.        Future new build housing with RSL partners will also need to take the needs of smaller households into account.

13.        The draft strategy (Appendix 1) sets out the Council’s plans for its homelessness prevention initiatives over the next five years, outlining a co-ordinated, proactive approach to tackling homelessness in partnership with relevant Council departments and service users.

14.        The strategy has been developed in partnership by the Council’s Public Sector Housing, Environmental Health (Housing), Financial Services (Housing Benefit), Social Services, Supporting People, Housing Strategy and various external partner agencies.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment and Climate Change, if appropriate)

15.        There are additional resource implications with the implementation of this draft strategy which have been outlined within the attached draft action plan and indicated below.

16.        £400 pa for the TA service user group incentive options. There will be a requirement for £1,000 covering training costs required in preparation for the introduction of the tenant accreditation scheme. 

17.        This will also be resource implications with the adoption of the Lend a Hand mortgage scheme.  Cabinet approval would be required in this case, due to the major resource investment implication.

18.        Spend to Save and the prevention of homelessness are the main principles of this strategy with an expected increase in the use of the private rented sector. It is anticipated that additional resources will be required to increase the current Spend to Save and Vale Assisted Tenancy Scheme budgets supporting this increase. It is anticipated that any increase to these budgets would be offset by a reduction in B&B costs.

19.        Homelessness is a General Fund activity.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

20.        The strategy will be subject to an Equality Impact Assessment.

21.        There are no current legal implications however implementation of the strategy will require further Legal officer consultation. 

Crime and Disorder Implications

22.        There are no crime and disorder implications arising from consultation on the draft strategy.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

23.        There are no equal opportunities implications arising from the proposed consultation. Invitations to comment on the draft strategy have been sent to relevant stakeholder and interest groups in the Vale of Glamorgan to provide an opportunity for comments.

Corporate/Service Objectives

24.        This report is consistent with the following Corporate and Service objectives of the Council: Community Well Being - to make the Vale a safe and healthy place in which individuals, children and families can live their lives to the full.

Policy Framework and Budget

25.        This report is consistent with the Policy Framework and Budget and will ultimately be a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

26.        No individual ward Members have been consulted as the proposals within strategy are Vale wide.

Background Papers

'Homelessness Strategy 2004-2009’

Contact Officer

Mike Ingram, Operational Manager, Public Sector Housing 01446 709516

Officers Consulted

Tony Jaques - Head of Housing, Public Sector Housing

Pam Toms -Strategy & Supporting People Manager

Lisa Doe - Homelessness & Housing Advice Manager

Rob Thompson - H4U Manager

Ann Williams - Team Manager, Children & Young People Services.

Mark Davies - Children & Young People's Partnership Manager

Gary Brown - Area Manager Cardiff & Vale, Llamau

Responsible Officer:

Miles Punter - Director of Visible Services and Housing

 

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