The Housing Solutions Manager presented the repot which outlined the Housing Solutions Customer Excellence Programme following an external review. It was explained that the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 was implemented on 3 April 2018, the Act had brought notable changes to the delivery of homeless services. The requirement to provide services to everyone who is ‘eligible’ and ‘homeless’, regardless of ‘priority need’ and ‘intentional homelessness’ had resulted in more people being provided with assistance.
It was explained that in considering a service redesign, the Housing Solutions Service had undertaken a programme of customer service improvement. The service also commissioned the National Practitioner Support Service (NPSS) and Shelter to conduct a full review of the service focusing on key areas which impacts on the customer experience. The main aim of the review was to seek an external view on how Thurrock was performing against the new legislative functions introduced by the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 and how well the service was working with residents and partners in making the correct decisions and providing the right advice in line with the law on homelessness.
Members were then taken through the outcomes of the external review, of which the website, Hostels and customer interview observations were touched on. The Committee were notified that overall Thurrock scored of 56% which was a high average in comparison with the other authorities reviewed.
During discussions Councillor Redsell queried that the report didn’t mention the armed forces were maybe homeless in Thurrock. She further commented that there was one gentleman who slept rough but didn’t want any assistance from the Council. It was suggested that it maybe time that the Veterans Charter be reviewed.
Councillor Abbas thanked Officers for the report and stated that he was concerned as to the rating the Council received. He continued to enquire as to the failed rating for resident’s cases. The Assistant Director of Housing explained that with the change in legislation all Local Authorises were struggling with no one meeting the pass rate of 60%. She further stated that Thurrock had received 56% and although there was still improvement to be made this was a good score compared with the other Authorises. In addition it was explained that the Council had a high turnover of staff within the department meaning that it wasn’t always the same officer who completed a case.
The Chair of the Committee directed the discussion to the rough sleepers in the Borough, the highlighted the use of the soup kitchen in Grays, who helped as many as 20 people on a Friday evening. She stated that services needed to work together as there were more than 8 rough sleepers as mentioned within the report. The Housing Solutions Manager, explained that St Mungos were contracted to undertake outreach work which equated to 3 days a week. She continued to inform Members that although they were not to work with the soup kitchen discussions had been had with St Mungos, to attend the soup kitchen as part of their outreach work.
Following an enquiry from Councillor Worrall, Chair of the Committee, Members heard to ensure the same level of service was given to all residents, regardless to which officer was handling the case training plans had been put into place, to guarantee consistency. This included a 2 weekly case session were officers would meet with managers, where feedback and advice could be given.
That the Committee comment on the information provided on the implementation of the Act and take note of the findings of the reviews and the continued work of the Housing Solutions Service to meet the service demands whilst providing an excellent service to applicants.