To review the actions taken in preparations for the anticipated impact of the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act April 2018
Cabinet Member for Housing – Councillor Jan Osborne
53.1 Heather Sparrow, Corporate Manager – Homeless Prevention and Financial Inclusion, introduced report BOS/17/22 updating Members’ that Central Government had confirmed that on the 3 April 2018 the Homelessness Reduction Act (2017) would be implemented.
53.2 The Corporate Manager updated Members’ that :
· Any employee of the public sector would have a mandatory duty of referring anyone at risk of homelessness and that a Suffolk Wide referral system was currently being drafted.
· Babergh District Council had received less homelessness appeals and had accepted less cases.
· The predicted workload once the Legislation is enacted would be double what is currently undertaken by the team.
· The team had absorbed the Financial Inclusion Team who are currently rolling out Universal Credit with the expectation of significant issues around the Christmas period.
· There would be an increase of 5 FTE, with 2 Staff Members in Mid Suffolk at risk, and will be advertising vacancies in the team next week.
· The team is continuing work with Solo Lodgings running a lodgings scheme and are working on a press release with the Communications team.
· The team are exploring the issues in around getting clients into private rented accommodation, including incentivising landlords to take on tenants as the DCLG will provide more funding if clients are housed in Private Sector accommodation.
· The team are working to acquire residency in a B&B
· A new code of guidance was being consulted upon as the last code was created 11 years ago.
· A project has been created around the Homeless Reduction Act to monitor progress on a weekly basis.
53.3 The Corporate Manager responded to Members’ questions regarding the provision of accommodation available to the team, that the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act incentivised Local Authorities to find private rented accommodation for homeless people. She continued by advising that there had been issues regarding the engagement with private landlords and that they were looking at creating a new role to work with landlords and help find private rented accommodation for clients. In addition to this the Corporate Manager advised that she was also investigating the possibility of providing a cash lump sum for the Landlord or providing a guarantee on the deposit.
53.4 Members’ also raised questions regarding the inclusion of Housing Associations, which the Corporate Manager Confirmed; and expanded that they had been in contact to encourage them to engage at an earlier stage with the financial inclusion team.
53.5 In response to Members’ questions the Corporate Manager and Assistant Director – Housing, explained that the team had been reorganised to delete the role of one of the professional leads and to would be continuing to make sure that the role of prevention had sufficient resourcing. They also commented that the work with Citizens Advice and worked closely with the branches in Sudbury and Stowmarket.
53.6 Councillor Jan Osborne, Cabinet Member – Housing, responded to Members’ concerns regarding approved planning applications for 1 and 2 bedroom houses, noting that two applications with the said features had been approved in Sudbury and that the team was currently working with Housing Policy to encourage more of these builds.
53.7 Gavin Fisk, Assistant Director- Housing, clarified the challenge of homelessness alongside the introduction of Universal Credit and that delays in payments has caused problems across the country with increased B&B costs. He elaborated that the team had been working on the concept of “electronic jam jars” encouraging people to sign up and guarantees payment of rent.
53.8 Members raised the consideration that Council Tenants could take Homeless people on as lodgers to which the Corporate Manager replied that this was currently under consideration and that work on promotion was being undertaken alongside the Communications Team.
53.9 Members’ requested that all Members of the Council be briefed on the changes and that an update be provided to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee 6 months after the implementation of the Legislation (October 2018)
That the report be NOTED with the following recommendations:
· That all Babergh District Councillors are briefed on the implications of the implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act (2017)
· That an update on the Homelessness Reduction Act (2017) be provided to Babergh Overview and Scrutiny Committee six months after the implementation of the Act (October 2018).