Yvonne Fox, Assistant Director – Housing;
a. presented Housing Scrutiny Sub Committee with a report and supporting data outlining information relating to homelessness and rough sleeping issues within the City
b. reported that preventing homelessness and rough sleeping were key priorities both locally and nationally, and that the Council received significant funding from MHCLG to address the issues of rough sleeping together with annual funding for initiatives to assist the Council with the delivery of its statutory functions outlined in legislation and the Code of Guidance
c. stated that the Council delivered statutory homelessness services via the Council’s Homelessness Team and provided a 24/7 service, 365 days per year
d. reported that all policies and procedures fully complied with the relevant legislation, (Housing Act 1985, Homelessness Act 2002, Localism Act 2011 and Homelessness Reduction Act 2017) the code of Guidance, Statutory guidance and advice and Case Law
e. highlighted with regard to the prevention and response to rough sleeping in the City, the Council had received significant funding from the MHCLG’s Rough Sleeper Initiative Funding (RSI), being the first of 11 local authorities to receive funding, together with additional funding received year on year to fund the Councils Rough Sleeper Team, support services such as the Cornerhouse Project, specialist support workers and move-on accommodation
f. reported further on the work of the Council in relation to homelessness and rough sleeping, covering the following main areas:
· Homelessness Team
· Rough Sleeping Team
· Temporary Accommodation
g. requested feedback from members on the content of the report.
Members discussed the content of the report in further detail. The following comments/questions emerged:
· Comment: Officers were commended for the work done within their teams to deal with homelessness and rough sleeping in such difficult times. Joint working arrangements were making a huge difference in the City.
· Question: Why had there been a reduction in costs for bed and breakfast accommodation which came to £132,404.74 during the period April-September 2019 reducing to £109,113.99 in the period April to September 2020?
· Officer Response: The authority had procured a number of temporary accommodation units in the private sector and had also used its own properties to house homeless people using MHCLG funding.
· Question: Was there any further funding forthcoming to help with homelessness in the second lockdown?
· Officer Response: There was no further funding available at this stage which was disappointing. The authority had received a sum of £62,000 for ongoing support. It also received funding from the MHCLG Rough Sleeping Initiative until April 2021.It was possible for capital funding to be used in the future for move on accommodation, however, this did not help with day to day costs. There had been no receipt to date of monies from the County Council from the funding allocated to them by the Government.
· Comment by LTP Member: The council had accommodated a homeless man who couldn’t read or write and his son in a property within three days of presenting themselves which was very good going.
· Officer Response: Officers would not expect anything less than this of the Homelessness Team.
· Question: What banner did homelessness come under since P3 support had ceased?
· Officer Response: Housing related support was administered by the one provider Lincolnshire County Council Adult Support Team. Officers at the City of Lincoln Council had been offering help to those tenants not requiring such intensive assistance. Following a job evaluation exercise it was hopeful to be able to appoint Tenancy Support Officers to offer assistance.
· Comment: It was important for members to scrutinise expenditure on homelessness provision in the city to ensure it was cost effective, although currently it fell within the parameters set.
· Officer Response: The authority had a legal obligation to provide temporary accommodation as a statutory service. It was not always possible to reclaim 100% of costs from housing benefit, although the council would always try to minimise costs to the General Fund within the parameters set.
· Question: Did the authority pay Framework for the cost of advice as a provider of a service to people with specialist needs
· Officer Response: There was now only one contract for housing related support between the County Council and Framework, The City of Lincoln Council did not contribute financially to this in any way.
· Comment: An amount of£109,113.99 between April-September 2020 seemed a large sum of money to spend on temporary accommodation considering numbers currently amounted to only 44 people housed there.
· Officer Response: The cost was recovered on expenditure for clients housed in our own accommodation and private rental accommodation. In terms of bed and breakfast accommodation the authority had no other option than to pay the commercial rate. There tended to be about 12 people in bed and breakfast accommodation at any one time and the authority always tried to minimise costs.
· Question: What efforts were made to prevent homeless people coming into the City from other areas?
· Officer Response: An individual was able to approach any local authority in the country for advice in such a situation and could not be turned away. Officers always recommended people returned to the area they came from, however, a decision had first to be made in each individual case as to whether there was a statutory requirement to offer assistance anyway.
· Comment: The current variance in the charge to the General Fund for temporary accommodation was within parameters set. Provision of help to the homeless was a statutory duty. Lincoln was on the right track and should be commended for all the hard work it was doing.
· Comment: It was important to look at our Allocations Policy in relation to housing those people already associated to the City.
· Officer Response: A new Allocations Policy was scheduled to be introduced the first week of 2021. Due to the current Covid-19 restrictions in force only essential moves were permitted in respect of homeless people and rough sleepers. The Council had a duty to ensure it offered assistance to those most in need of help as a priority.
The Director of Housing emphasised the incredible work the Homelessness Team were involved in. Lincoln was a major City in a large rural area which brought additional problems. The authority received core funding from the Government for this statutory service. Every effort was made to try to drive down bed and breakfast accommodation costs. Having a major hospital and a prison was also a challenge in respect of homelessness provision. Some temporary accommodation for families hadn’t been of a high enough standard which had driven up costs in some instances and had been unavoidable.
1. An update be provided to Housing Scrutiny Sub Committee every six months on the homelessness cell chaired by the Director of Housing.
2. The content of the report be noted.