- Meeting of Resources and Governance Scrutiny Committee, Tuesday, 6th October, 2020 10.00 am (Item 40.)
Report of the Director of Homelessness and Deputy Chief Executive and City Treasurer attached
This report details information on the demand and financial impact of homelessness. It also presents the impact covid has had on the service, The report also covers the financial steps the Council is taking within its capital budget to improve the provision of good quality temporary accommodation within the broad geographical boundaries of the city. It also covers the value of money that could be derived from the Council building its own provision for homelessness
The Committee considered a report of the Director of Homelessness and Deputy Chief Executive and City Treasurer, which provided information on the projects that had been undertaken with capital finance in order to improve temporary accommodation in the city. It also contained figures to aid Members to understand if it would be better value for money for the Council to manage emergency accommodation itself, or to continue with the current practice.
Key points and themes in the report included:-
· Details of where the capital budget had been used to improve the provision of good quality temporary accommodation within the broad geographical boundaries of the city, which included:-
· Development of Apex House;
· Buying or larger properties for families;
· Refurbishment of Shared Housing;
· Refurbishment of Woodward Court;
· Refurbishment of Women’s Direct Access Centre;
· Adaption of accommodation at Dalbeattie Street; and
· Investment in Extra Care facilities;
· An overview of the Next Steps Accommodation Programme (NSAP) Ministry for Housing, Community and Local Government (MHCLG) and Homes England Bid;
· Information on Emergency Accommodation being built and managed by the Council; and
· Detail on the value for money that could be derived from the Council building its own provision for homelessness.
Some of the key points that arose from the Committee’s discussions were:-
· Assurance was sought that with the Apex House site being a former office, the properties would be of a decent size with appropriate levels of natural lighting for each property;
· Had any work been undertaken with partners who had hostel accommodation in reconfiguring this accommodation into a more appropriate configuration to ensure it was COVID secure;
· Was there any update on cost effectiveness of buying larger properties;
· What demand was there on PPE equipment from those coming out of hospital or prison;
· Did any monitoring of BAME residents in temporary accommodation take place;
· Whilst it was sad that our residents require temporary accommodation, it was pleasing to see temporary accommodation being provided within the boundaries of Manchester;
· Clarification was sought as to who would be providing the support to those residents that would be accommodated in Apex House;
· It was hoped that through reducing the demand on temporary accommodation from families and the cost that this would save, this money could be re-invested in building more large social housing for families to live in; and
· Was it proposed that all dispersed accommodation was to be managed by an external provider as the current contract came to an end or was this just in relation to Apex House.
The Director of Homelessness confirmed that Apex House would conform to all the temporary accommodation standards and Members would be welcome to visit the site when it was completed. In terms of the issue raised around hostels, this was regularly reviewed and the Council had had to cease using a number of hostels and shared spaces due to the risk of COVID. Government had issued guidance around the safe use of hostel space, and discussions were taking place with partners to make these types of accommodation more COVID secure.
The Director of Homelessness advised that the Council had committed to spending £8.5million on the purchase of 42 larger properties. The value of purchasing these properties was found from improving the health, social skills and educational attainment of children in families who were in temporary accommodation for many years due to the lack of availability of larger social housing. It was also confirmed that the cost of keeping a family in temporary accommodation for many years was significantly high and it was more cost effective for the Council to purchase and have control over large properties for families if this was viable. In terms of PPE, he advised that all in-house services had a good arrangement around the supply of PPE, however he did not have figures on pressure from hospital and prison discharges. He also confirmed that the Council monitored protected characteristics and ethnicity of those in temporary accommodation and agreed to provide figures on this to the Committee.
The Committee was advised that Manchester Council staff would be operating at Apex House and providing the support needed for residents in this accommodation.
The Executive Members for Skills, Culture and Leisure supported the comments made around the need to accelerate the building of larger social housing for families, in order to provide greater long term security for families.
The Director of Homelessness explained that a small pilot had been planned for the New Year, in relation to the dispersed accommodation contract. This was to see if an external provider could access a different benefit rates to reduce the cost to the Council for the provision of dispersed accommodation. This would not affect Apex House. He added that in all aspects of temporary accommodation, the key driver for the Directorate was to be more outcome focussed, in so much as getting the right property for the right people and families resulting in a reducing demand on the need for temporary accommodation.
The Committee notes the report.