The lifting of eviction restrictions in the Private Rented Sector and the impact of these changes on the homelessness directorate
- Meeting of Neighbourhoods and Environment Scrutiny Committee, Wednesday, 10th March, 2021 2.00 pm (Item 14.)
Report of the Interim Director of Homelessness
This report described that the eviction moratorium has been extended to the 31st March 2021, subject to review, and therefore evictions will not commence until the 14th April at the earliest. This report indicates that demand will increase within the 2021/22 financial year and lists the factors that will impact upon the level of demand and the timing of it.
The Committee considered a report of the Interim Director of Homelessness that described that at the time of reporting, it was too early to fully understand the demand that would impact on the homelessness directorate due to the lifting of the eviction moratorium. The eviction moratorium had been extended to the 31 March 2021, subject to review, and therefore evictions would not commence until the 14 April at the earliest. This report indicated that demand would increase within the 2021/22 financial year and listed the factors that would impact upon the level of demand.
The main points and themes within the report included: -
· Providing an introduction and background to the Moratorium Legislation;
· An overview of the impact of COVID-19 on the levels of homelessness experienced in Manchester;
· A description of the demand on, and capacity of the service;
· Data on the numbers of people in temporary accommodation;
· Analysis of the potential levels of demand on Homeless Services and the mitigation; and
· Information on the Debt Respite Scheme, a new statutory scheme that would commence on 4 May 2021.
Some of the key points that arose from the Committee’s discussions were: -
· Members expressed their appreciation to the Executive Member, officers and all partner agencies in working to support the most vulnerable residents in the city;
· Every opportunity should be utilised in getting key messaging regarding advice and support available to homeless people or those at risk of homelessness out into local communities, including the use of digital advertising screens and banners on schools’ railings; and
· Noting the issue of digital exclusion and the need for residents to access advice in a number of ways;
· The need to acknowledge the issue of hidden homelessness and young people;
· How many people were accommodated in dispersed accommodation and how was this split across Manchester and Greater Manchester; and
· What was the approach to inspecting temporary accommodation to ensure they were of the correct standard.
The Committee heard from Andy Brown, CEO Citizens Advice Manchester, who stated that during the Covid pandemic the number of enquiries to their service regarding homelessness had risen by 12% and the number of enquiries from people in the Private Rented Sector had increased by 46%. He stated that it was anticipated that these figures would continue to increase. He advised that they had developed a proactive communications and engagement strategy to raise awareness of the changes in legislation regarding evictions, stating that this work was closely aligned to the work and campaigns by Shelter. He further stated that advice workers engaged with landlords to ensure that any tenants experiencing problems were signposted for appropriate advice at the earliest possibility, in addition the housing related legal advice was still being offered at the courts. He described that Covid had presented challenges and restrictions on how advice had been provided however they had worked to maintain a presence in local community settings, such as providing dedicated video advice kits for residents to access. He commented that as staff continued to be vaccinated the intention was to reinstate face to face advice sessions.
The Committee then heard from John Ryan, Manager, Shelter Greater Manchester. He reiterated the comments of the previous speaker regarding increased levels of demand on the service, in particular in relation to unlawful evictions. He stated that in response to Covid the advice offered was predominately via telephone and commented that this had been very successful. He stated that Shelter also maintained a presence at the courts to offer advice and were seeking to continue engagement with landlords to provide early intervention and advice to avoid crisis situations occurring.
In response to a question from the Chair who asked the invited guests what the Council could do to best support the work of both Shelter and the CAB, Andy Brown, CEO Citizens Advice Manchester stated that an extension of two years to the existing contract with the Council to deliver advice services in Manchester would enable them to continue and develop their work in Manchester. The Committee endorsed this proposal and the Chair stated she would write to the appropriate Executive Member, the Deputy Leader and the Chair of the Communities and Equalities Scrutiny Committee to propose an extension of two years to the existing contact with the CAB to deliver advice services in Manchester.
The Interim Director of Homelessness described that the priority for the service was delivering preventative work, including working with landlords to negotiate solutions and to encourage residents to seek appropriate advice prior to their situation getting to a crisis point. He stated the service worked closely with a range of partners across the city and were members of the Advice Forum that strengthened the relationships between partner organisations and shared experience and learning.
The Strategic Lead Homelessness stated that the Everyone In programme and A Bed Every Night scheme had witnessed the accommodation of over 500 people in Covid secure accommodation with the intention to support people into appropriate housing solutions. She further commented that the service had established relationships with Centrepoint to deliver advice and support to young people in an appropriate setting.
The Strategic Lead Homelessness informed the Committee that there were currently 1704 families in dispersed accommodation, with approximately 500 of these in accommodation in Greater Manchester with the rest remaining within the city. She stated risk assessments were undertaken with each case and the service worked closely with other teams such as education and children’s services. She further informed the Committee of the approach taken to inspecting temporary accommodation, noting that during the pandemic contact had been maintained via telephone. Inspections of empty properties in readiness for re-letting had been undertaken during the period of Covid19 adding that the inspections process for occupied properties had recently been risk assessed to ensurethe service can be stepped back up now for occupied properties.
The Executive Member for Skills, Culture and Leisure stated that work was currently underway to develop a document that describes the pathways and sources of advice and interventions that were available, and this would be shared with Members when this was available. In response to comments raised regarding digital exclusion he commented that this was acknowledged and all opportunities for providing advice and information were considered, such as libraries and other community settings.
The Executive Member for Skills, Culture and Leisure stated that it was a failure of the government to adequately fund the service to address the issue of homelessness. He stated the funding that had been made available to local authorities had been piecemeal and short term, stating that long-term adequate funding was required to adequately plan and deliver services. He further stated that the government had failed to adequately support the low paid and self-employed during the pandemic, all of which contributed to financial insecurity experienced by residents. In addition, he said there was the issue of the hidden homeless that the government failed to acknowledge. He stated that he continued to make the case that it was local authorities with their knowledge, network and experience that were best placed to respond to the issue of homelessness.
The Chair in concluding this item of business paid tribute to all staff and partners in the VCSE (Voluntary Community and Social Enterprise) sector for their dedication in supporting some of the most vulnerable residents of the city.
The Committee recommend that the Chair write to the appropriate Executive Member, the Deputy Leader and the Chair of the Communities and Equalities Scrutiny Committee to propose an extension of two years to the existing contact with the CAB to deliver advice services in Manchester.
- Private Rented Sector Evictions, item 14. PDF 361 KB
- Appendix - Private Rented Sector Evictions, item 14. PDF 196 KB