Agenda item

Draft Homelessness Strategy

Minutes:

Members were consulted on the council’s draft homelessness prevention strategy. The aim of the draft strategy was to set out the Council’s approach for tackling homelessness in the district and how, over the lifetime of the strategy, the council will achieve that working with key partners.

 

The Assistant Director (Housing) advised that the council’s current homelessness strategy expired in 2016 and the production of a new strategy was delayed to allow for the Homeless Reduction Act to receive Royal Assent during 2017 and for subsequent guidance to be issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government in the form of a revised Code of Guidance. It contained key information around Government expectations for Homelessness Strategies and their production. The revised code of Guidance was issued in November 2017 and the Government consulted on it early in 2018.

 

The draft Strategy is the first one developed under the framework of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 and is vital as homelessness and poor housing conditions continue to blight lives, damage health, reduce opportunities and negatively impact on communities in profound ways. Preventing homelessness has become a priority for the Council and the Council remains committed to preventing homelessness, helping people find housing that meets their needs and providing the support needed to prevent them from going back into homelessness.

 

The draft Strategy attached in the report pack reinforces the council’s commitment to preventing homelessness rather than dealing with households at the point of crisis. That is particularly important during a time where resources available to the Council have become more limited and the Council is seeing an increase in numbers requiring support to sustain their existing home, or secure new accommodation.

 

An error was pointed by a Member within the recommendation in the report; it should read ‘Approval of the draft strategy’.

 

The Assistant Director (Housing) fielded questions and comments from the Members of the Committee explaining that:

 

  • The total cost to Gravesham and funding received from central government for the implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 will be circulated to Members.  As required, this will include the cost of temporary accommodation to clients
  • Referencing page 13, ‘Intervene in a timely manner for those at risk of homelessness’ – That bullet point does not mean a set period of time; it varies depending on the circumstances of the individual. Each person would be met with first and their case reviewed with a personal housing plan being drawn up and which will include measures to be taken to prevent them from becoming homeless.
  • Gravesham has a number of partners who have statutory responsibilities to the homeless and therefore by law, have to work with the Council to combat homelessness within the Borough. An example of those partners is the social services department who work with Gravesham to help the homeless or those threatened with being homeless and whom the Council may have no responsibility for.
  • Gravesham also works with and supports a number of voluntary organisations such as Sanctuary and Porchlight; there aims are to help the homeless in the Borough and the Council also provides a grant to the CAB and other agencies who assist those threatened with homelessness.
  • The strategy itself does not go into great detail on the specifics of how homeless households will be helped or families prevented from becoming homeless; the strategy is an overarching document which lays out the Council’s commitment to helping prevent homelessness. It identifies how the Council will provide help and the Council’s responsibility to any person or family that approaches them
  • The Assistant Director (Housing) then outlined to the Committee the methods in which the Council provide help, the two stages of prevention and relief duties and the procedures that are followed to ensure every person is given assistance as required. An integral part of that is meeting with each person and drawing up an individual housing plan tailored to their requirements that sets out what the Council will do and what the person needs to do.
  • The Homelessness legislation and the proposed new strategy do not change Gravesham Borough Council’s Housing Allocations Policy

 

The Committee was keen that all Members have their say on the document and be able to give their views, especially the Members that were a part of the cross party working group that was formed by a motion from a Full Council meeting. The Assistant Director (Housing) assured Members that all Gravesham Members would have access to the draft strategy when it goes out to consultation; during that time period they can voice their opinions on anything that had been missed or required amendments. 

 

Resolved that Members:

 

  • Approved the draft strategy
  • Agreed to commence wider consultation with the strategy ensuring that all Members are included

 

Supporting documents: