HOMELESSNESS AND HOUSING SUPPORT SERVICES
To consider a joint report by the Service Manager, Business Support & Communities, Senior Auditor and Programme Manager - Housing Development (copy attached) on the effectiveness of the homelessness multi-disciplinary service which was implemented in line with the Welsh Government’s vision for homelessness and housing related support in April 2021.
11.00 – 11.45 a.m.
Councillor Rhys Thomas, Lead Member for Housing and Communities introduced the Homelessness and Housing Support Services report (previously circulated). The report on the work on the Homelessness Service included as appendix 1 a progress report on the service provision, presented on behalf of the Internal Audit department of the Council. The Lead Member reminded members that homelessness had been and continued to be a challenging issue for all local authorities. New approaches had been called for by Welsh Government.
The Interim Head of Community Support Services, informed members that the report was a follow-up report to the one that had previously been reported to the Committee late last year. It was stressed that the Homelessness Service had undergone significant changes in 2021. A multi-disciplinary team had been established to support the homelessness team. Following the implementation, the Service had become more bedded in to the approach that Welsh Government wanted local authorities to take. This approach looked at addressing the wider impact of homelessness as well as trying to secure permanent accommodation.
The numbers in emergency and temporary accommodation remained at around 180 households. This figure included single people or families. The number was remaining constant as households were supported. Members heard the biggest concern the Service was the number of single people under the age of 35 presenting as homeless. Another challenge faced by the team had been to source and allocate housing for larger families. During the last 12-18 months, due to close working with the Community Housing team and registered social landlords, the Service had secured 99 households into permanent tenancies in social housing.
Working with the private rented sector to establish a private rent sector scheme had been challenging, due to the change in the housing market with a rise in demand for rented properties. The Welsh Government had subsequently changed the scheme which the Homelessness Team were in the process of implementing.
Members were informed that officers had been asked to develop a rapid rehousing approach. Development of an interim plan to submit to Welsh Government had begun. Rapid rehousing was where an individual would come into the homelessness system, be assessed, a tenancy sought and found and the Service would ensure that all the necessary support was in place. It was hoped that this would reduce the reliance on using emergency accommodation.
A contract had recently been awarded to deliver early intervention and prevention services. The Service had through the housing support grant funding procured a contract which was made up of a partnership agreement to support individuals and prevent people becoming homeless. The contract had been awarded in April 2022 and was just about to go live.
Members were informed that in Denbighshire the numbers of rough sleepers were relatively low. Officers were aware of those individuals whose choice it was to ‘sleep rough;’ therefore every effort was made to support and manage those people maintaining contact with each individual. Households entering the Homelessness Service usually did so as a result of a loss of tenancy of a property.
The Senior Auditor confirmed the original audit of homeless accommodation provision had concluded in March 2020 and raised seven risks and issues, two of which had been major risks. The low assurance rating had been raised due to the significant risks identified. The first follow up audit review was conducted and reported to Partnerships Scrutiny committee in December 2021. The follow up audit demonstrated a number of improvements but the time to deliver the improvements had taken longer, therefore the low assurance rating remained. The second follow up review recently conducted identified that considerable progress had been made. Only 5 of the 18 actions were remaining. The main areas of improvement remaining were around the recording of case reviews and putting in place written procedures. Following the second review the assurance rating had been awarded a medium rating. A further review was scheduled for December 2022.
The Chair thanked all the officers for the detailed papers. Officers provided further information on the following points raised by members:
· Housing First services were still being provided. Housing First was offered to the most entrenched homeless people with the most complex needs. It was a longer term service that offered 24/7 support. It provided ongoing intensive support. Funding had been received from Welsh Government and was currently continuing to be received. The rapid rehousing model included Housing First type provision.
· Under 35s remained a concern for the Homelessness Service as they were only entitled to local housing allowance rates for housing benefit. It was lower than what was typically affordable for those individuals. Officers were not aware of any changes expected to change the level of benefits.
· Following the Covid pandemic the numbers of households entering homelessness had remained static not reducing or increasing.
· A high assurance rating had been considered by Internal Audit following the recent review, but as two actions remaining were related to major risks the review was kept to a medium assurance rating. If the progress continued as it has been it was hoped the next review would result in a high assurance.
· Emergency accommodation was limited in rural areas. The Service did try and accommodate households in the areas where they requested, but this was not always possible.
· Social housing demand was monitored across the whole of the county, with the majority of the demand observed being in the north of the county. The law stipulated that individuals could only identify the county area of their preference for social housing, although the local authority made every effort to offer housing in the areas of the individual’s choice wherever possible. When social housing became available, the Homelessness Team were approached first to offer to potential households.
· Members were reminded there was a policy in place to buy back former council properties that had been purchased as part of the Right to Buy Scheme. When those properties were placed on the market the Authority did look to purchase them.
· The Team worked closely with the Revenue and Benefits Service and were provided with access to data that could identify potential households at risk of homelessness. This piece of work had been conducted as a pilot scheme and was successful. Members heard that often the team relied on families communicating with the team for support. It was hoped that this early intervention work would be beneficial to support families and individuals as they encountered difficulties, encouraging them to contact the Service as early as possible with a view to averting a housing crisis at a later date.
· Where households required adapted properties, a team of officers supported individuals and worked closely with the family to assess needs and what support they required. Emergency accommodation for households requiring additional needs had been an issue. Accommodation already owned by the Council was often adapted to accommodate the needs of households.
· A private rented sector landlord forum was established, to allow officers to communicate with landlords and partners to open a dialogue of needs and discuss concerns.
· Landlords were required to be registered with Rent Smart Wales. It was one of the conditions that officers assessed when tenancies were obtained with landlords.
The Chair thanked all the officers for the detailed report and thanked all officers and their teams for the continued support for individuals and households.
At the conclusion of the discussion the Committee:
Resolved: subject to the above comments –
(i) that it was assured the implementation of the multi-disciplinary homelessness service and cross-service Corporate approach was in line with the Welsh Government’s vision of homelessness and housing support, and that it was contributing to the Homelessness Prevention Service’s aim to ensure that everyone was safeguarded and supported to live in homes that met their needs; and
(ii) that having reviewed the significant progress made in addressing the audit actions it was now satisfied that any further update reports on the progress of the improvement plan be submitted from thereon in to the Governance and Audit Committee.
- Homelessness Report 070722 final, item 7. PDF 139 KB
- Homelessness Report 070722 - APPENDIX 1, item 7. PDF 318 KB