At tonight’s meeting of Exeter City Council’s Scrutiny Committee: Community considered a report of the Homelessness Task & Finish Group
The minutes of the meeting record:
Homelessness Task and Finish Group
Councillor Harvey presented the interim findings of the Homelessness Task and Finish Group in relation to the proposed Strategy and Action Plan.
Responding to queries presented prior to the meeting by a Committee Member, he advised that:-
the draft Strategy and Action Plan document would address the topic of diversity;
education and training would be reflected in the Action Plan;
with respect to the reference made to ex-servicemen and women, the Task and Finish Group recognised that this group required specific support and that the British Legion would be consulted in this respect;
different packages of assisting the homeless would be incorporated to recognize different needs; and
he emphasised that the document was an active strategy and would be regularly monitored and updated.
Other issues covered included:-
the strategy to be in place by 1 April 2016, prior consultation to include both specific consultative events as well as the regular pattern of meetings with established partners in this field. The first draft document would be available by the end of November following consultation and would be reported to this Committee in January;
joint working with Teignbridge District Council reflected both the cross boundary nature of the problem and the need to maximise use of scarce resources. The nature of the housing problems and the potential solutions were common to both authorities and agencies such as Public Heath and the County Council which functioned on a wider Devon basis; and
some 1,500 homeless people were seen annually, of which less than 5% were rough sleepers and the major proportion of the homelessness budget was spent on temporary accommodation.
Scrutiny Committee – Community supported the following interim recommendations to this Committee, together with the additions reported above:-
(a) the proposed structure of the new Homelessness Strategy and Action Plan:-
(i) to agree that the Homelessness Strategy should be developed across the Exeter and Teignbridge area to increase opportunities for local residents and reduce administrative burden on the services of developing two separate strategies for a combined service;
(ii) to agree that the Homelessness Strategy should primarily adopt the four key common themes of:-
Health and Protection;
Money Matters and Money and Employment;
Access to Services; and
Accommodation Options and Private Rented Accommodation; and
(iii) that the Strategy should consider, amongst other responsibilities, how the Council should address homelessness in respect of ex-servicemen and women.
(b) Proposed Action Plan:-
regular review of the Action Plan and review meetings with agencies for the purposes of monitoring the Plan and altering where necessary to reflect any new challenges;
a cross boundary list of available resources including properties spanning both Exeter and Teignbridge areas should be prepared and circulated;
access to information on cross boundary areas to be made available by each Authority;
identifying larger empty properties and working towards bringing these properties back into use in the context of tackling homelessness;
better signposting when enquiries are received – one information registration form to be used by both Exeter and Teignbridge so that the individual only has to give details once and they are passed to the relevant Authority for action immediately;
mapping of services and agencies on an ongoing basis to avoid duplication of work and avoid wasting resources;
mapping out different pathways to help people with different needs so that they are assisted quickly and effectively;
staff training with particular emphasis on “soft assessment” skills. For example, specialist training in how best to speak with and to obtain relevant information from ex-servicemen and women generally and to evaluate what type of properties would or would not be suitable;
monitor the impact of welfare reform on homelessness to allow for schemes to be developed to prevent homelessness or respond quickly when households have been impacted;
create a credit card size contact information card which can be placed with various agencies (letting agents and hospitals for instance) which individuals can easily keep and refer to; and
better website information which is easily accessible for individuals in relation to where and how they can access help.
Scrutiny Committee – Community supported the above interim recommendations and noted that a further report would be submitted to the January meeting of this Committee.