Update on Homelessness and Housing
- Meeting of Neighbourhoods and Environment Scrutiny Committee, Wednesday, 6th November, 2019 2.00 pm (Item 44.)
Report of the Director of Homelessness
This report provides an update, subsequent to the report to Neighbourhoods and Scrutiny on the 17th July 2019, on the work that is taking place to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping in the city. The focus of the report reflects the concerns and questions raised by Members at previous meetings of the committee.
(Cllr Flanagan in the Chair)
The Committee considered the report of the Director of Homelessness that provided an update, subsequent to the report to the Committee on the 17 July 2019, on the work that was taking place to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping in the city. The focus of the report reflected the concerns and questions raised by Members at previous meetings of the Committee.
The Director of Homelessness referred to the main points and themes within the report which included: -
· Data on the numbers of requests for assistance for the period July to October 2019;
· Information on the location of facilities for the accommodation of homeless households, noting that accommodation was provided for the extent of the legal duty owed to any household;
· An update on the A Bed Every Night Scheme; and
· Noting that the number of people who slept rough who come from the armed forces was quite small in the city, it was understood that this group may be less willing to access services and therefore could be under-represented.
The Committee then heard from Yvonne Hope, Barnabus. She described that they had witnessed a huge increase in people accessing their service who had complex needs, often as a result of mental health issues, substance misuse and trauma. She commented that the impact of continued budget cuts to public services and welfare reform had resulted in impact on the number of people who were experiencing homelessness. She stated that the reduction in preventive measures and support had resulted in people presenting when they were in crisis. She stated that the increased rents within the Private Rented Sector and the freeze on the Local Housing Allowance meant that people would immediately be facing rent arrears and making their tenancy very unstable. She added that this was compounded due to the lack of affordable housing across the city. She concluded by stating that whilst many Mancunians had good intentions in trying to help homeless people, it was important to note that there were plenty of sources of food available for homeless people in Manchester and the best way Mancunians could help would be to give to the Big Change Campaign.
The Committee them heard from Hendrix Lancaster, Coffee4Craig. He reiterated the point that the numbers of people, and those with complex needs who were turning to them for assistance and support had increased significantly over the previous years. He said that due to the lack of appropriate housing for homeless people the risk was that they could become entrenched in this lifestyle and lose trust in services and support agencies. He stated that the A Bed Every Night scheme was welcomed, however this was not often appropriate for people with complex needs and assessment was always made. Mr Hendrix stated that people could volunteer to work with Coffee4Craig and Barnabus and information on how to apply to do this could be obtained from the respective websites. He also encouraged all Members to get involved in offering support to homelessness charities, throughout the year or to drop in to observe the support offered.
Some of the key points that arose from the Committee’s discussions were: -
· Recognising and thanking the Voluntary and Community Sector for the important work that they delivered to support the most vulnerable people in the city;
· What was the inspection regime applied to Bed and Breakfasts used for temporary accommodation;
· What was the length of time people spent in temporary accommodation;
· More information was requested on the Council’s Navigator Service;
· More information was requested on the Housing First model; and
· How many children were currently placed in temporary accommodation.
The Director of Homelessness stated that properties used to accommodate homeless people and families were inspected, in line with agreed standards and all properties would be inspected. He said that if they were found to be unfit families would be removed and they would work with landlords to rectify any issues and where appropriate enforcement action would be taken.
The Director of Homelessness stated that there were currently 3648 children housed in temporary accommodation, with the average time being 12 months stay in temporary accommodation, adding that that accommodation was provided for the duration of the legal duty owed to any household. In response to a specific question regarding the longest stay in temporary accommodation he said he would circulate this information following the meeting. He stated that he understood the disruption this could have for families and a child’s education and work was ongoing with Children’s Services to consider the options to best support these children. He further commented that families were offered floating support.
The Director of Homelessness informed Members that the Navigator Service consisted of four navigators and one team leader. Navigators would be assigned to work with people who were rough sleeping, who would benefit from tailored support, to help them access and sustain accommodation. They would follow the client from street outreach, giving a continued single point of contact and support through pathway systems and through to resettlement support. The navigators would have particular specialisms, including mental health and drug and alcohol support.
Yvonne Hope stated that the Housing First model was designed to support those people who had struggled to be accommodated through the traditional process, often due to complex needs. She described that people who were housed were intensively supported with wrap around services to help maintain their tenancy. She described that a panel would consider all applications to the scheme. However, she called for further investment into this model of housing.
The Deputy Leader stated that the Homelessness Service was responding to unprecedented demand on the service, commenting that they experienced on average 100 presentations per day. She stated this was as a direct result of austerity and welfare reform, in particular the roll out of Universal Credit. She further called for an end to the issuing of Section 21 Notices and the establishment of three year tenancy agreements within the Private Rented Sector. She further commented that she supported the Housing First model, noting that this offered a system wide response to the issue of homelessness, and in particular those with complex needs.
The Committee: -
1. Recognise the important work that the staff within the Homelessness Service do on behalf of the most vulnerable residents in Manchester;
2. Recognise the invaluable contribution the Voluntary and Community Sector play in supporting the most vulnerable residents in Manchester;
3. Recommend that visits be arranged for Members of the Committee to visit emergency accommodation and Bed and Breakfast accommodation that is used to house homeless people.
4. Recommend that a report on the approach to accommodating homeless families with children be provided to the Committee at an appropriate time. The report will include the numbers of children housed in temporary accommodation; the length of time spent in temporary accommodation and the support that is offered to minimise the disruption to their education.
5. Recommend that all Members of the Committee should commit to undertaking voluntary work with homeless charities.
[Councillor Igbon declared a prejudicial interest and withdrew from the meeting during consideration of this item]