KCC Kent Homeless Connect Service
Cabinet notes the KCC decision and agrees to form a working group to engage with the current providers over the coming months to fully understand the impact locally and explore the potential of protecting the current service provision through alternative ways of working outside of Gravesham Borough Council funding.
The Director (Housing)informed Cabinet of a decision recently taken by Kent County Council to allow the Kent Homeless Connect contract, which provides specialist housing and support to vulnerable people and households, to come to its natural end in September 2022 and to outline the impact this decision is likely to have locally.
This will involve the removal of £5m funding from their budgets.
The current Kent Homeless Connect contract was established in 2019 by Kent County Council (KCC) to provide support to vulnerable adults at risk of becoming homeless or experiencing homelessness within Kent with complex needs such as mental health issues, struggling alcohol abuse and known difficulties.
If left unsupported by KCC, it would place a burden on other support services offered by KCC such as Specialist Children's Services, Adult Mental Health, and Safeguarding if no such service existed. In addition to this, other public agencies such as NHS, Probation Services, Community Safety, Public Health, etc. would also see additional burdens.
The current contract to set to come to an end in September 2022 and with no option to extend it. Throughout 2021, Gravesham Officers formed part of the working group established by KCC to create tender documents to re-procure the service. However, following some announcements from Government in late December 2021 KCC announced they would need to make savings of £5m which would be taken from the budget and would not be replacing the Kent Homeless Connect contract.
Current services are delivered by two partners, Look Ahead and Porchlight. These agencies provide a significant amount of support in our borough most notably supported accommodation. We currently have 14 single people in supported accommodation and at this point it is unclear what the transitional arrangement will be put in place by KCC.
The removal of this service will leave a significant gap in the service provision, and it is likely to increase the number of people sleeping rough on our streets with complex health issues.
It is estimated the public sector will incur costs of £8m per year with the removal of this service.
KCC did not consult on its decision to cease the Kent Homeless Connect contact. Despite deciding to cut the funding, KCC have not yet undertaken a quality impact assessment or given its rationale to cut this service above the many other providers. They have not set out how they intend to mitigate the burden they highlighted in other services area in the original report.
The decision to remove the £5m was formalised by KCC at their budget setting meeting earlier this month and they now intend to complete risk assessments and quality impact assessments relating to the decision before the end of the contract.
The Director (Housing) is seeking Cabinet approval to agree to form a working group to engage with the current providers over the coming months to fully understand the impact.
The Leader thanked the Director (Housing) and Officers for a detailed report, but this is not good news for Gravesham. Gravesham found out about these changes at 5pm on New Year’s Eve and Officers working within the Kent Homeless Connect Service were unaware. No District Leader, within Kent, supports this change. There has been a lack of consultation and understanding for residents throughout Kent.
As a borough we have a duty to the homeless, unfortunately we do not have the budget or resources for all the social services aspects. Kent have a legal duty to people under 25 where there are complex needs and vulnerabilities but Gravesham are not equipped to deal with the necessary support for people with acute mental health and dependency issues, that is Kent’s role. This service will be phased out from September onwards and the council hopes that a way forward will be found.
The Leader informed the Cabinet that Kent had not yet considered the environmental and equality impact and had not completed a risk assessment. The Leader hopes that people in Kent will not suffer with the service being cut.
Following questions and comments from Members, the following was discussed:
- Members of the Cabinet expressed their anger and dismay at the decision being made by KCC and the fact that no equality and impact assessment had been undertaken.
- Members asked whether other agencies could provide a joint and cohesive response to work together in partnership rather than only one unitary authority in Kent. The Director (Housing) explained the council was going to ask for an impact assessment to be completed and the third sector partnership to continue to protect the service without any additional cost to the council.
- In the report from 2017, there was a recognition of duplication and gaps in the service but no recommendation that there could be a better service or a retender of the service.
- The Leader felt that a judicial review of the decision was unlikely.
- Members said they hoped Kent Leaders would respond and if the point could be made to local residents as to where the decision was made.
- The decision to cease this service will hit the most vulnerable people sleeping on the streets, with nowhere to go.
The council has a duty to the homeless and the council will do their duty as this group of people are the most vulnerable, but Kent also has a duty to fulfil to protect and safeguard them and hopefully move them back into normal society. There needs to be a way of solving this, the Government will need to be involved.
Cabinet noted the KCC decision and agreed to form a working group to engage with
the current providers over the coming months to fully understand the impact locally
and explore the potential of protecting the current service provision through alternative
ways of working outside of Gravesham Borough Council funding.
- Cabinet Report - Kent Homeless Connect Feb 22 copy, item 22. PDF 102 KB
- Appendix 2 - Vulnerable Homelessness Service Redesign, item 22. PDF 94 KB
- Appendix 3 - Financial Impact, item 22. PDF 50 KB