The Housing Strategy and Quality Manager addressed Members explaining there was a statutory duty on every Local Authority to have a Homelessness Prevention and Rough Sleeping Strategy which set out the local authority’s plans for the prevention of homelessness and for securing that sufficient accommodation and support is, or would be, available for people who become homeless or who were at risk of becoming so.
He continued to explain the local authority must ensure that all organisations whose work could help to prevent homelessness and, or meet the needs of homeless people were involved in the strategy; with the current homelessness strategy being adopted in Thurrock in 2015.
Members were notified an updated Homelessness Prevention and Rough Sleeping Strategy had been developed which took into account current homelessness in the borough, the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, the impact of recent welfare reforms, as well as new opportunities for preventing homelessness.
The Housing Strategy and Quality Manger raised the key themes within the strategy:
Members were assured that the Committee would receive updates on the working of the strategy and Officers would continue to ensure that the Committee was involved in scrutiny of the delivery of the action plan.
Councillor Redsell commented that due to Data Protection the British Legion were not at liberty to disclose the whereabouts of a veteran and in some cases, Veterans didn’t want help from the Council and it was for the Council to respect that decision.
She further commented that the Veteran’s Charter was due to be updated and welcomed a piece of work on this.
The Housing Strategy and Quality Manger informed Members that there was information for veterans on the Councils website and Officers were working with partners to improve the information offered.
Councillor Worrall, Chair of the Committee enquired as to when it was likely for the Housing Prevention Board to be in place. The Assistant Director of Housing explained that the Board, was not yet in existence as the strategy was required to be agreed by Cabinet. She remarked that she hoped the first meeting would take place by March 2020.
Councillor Muldowney thanked Officers for the report and commented that she welcomed the strategy. She further enquired as to whether Officers were confidence they would half the number of people sleeping rough in the Borough; as in line with the Governments new policy. The Assistant Director of Housing confirmed they were.
Officers added that in line with the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy an action plan would be in place and would involve different partners and stakeholders such as the NHS and the Housing Service working together as well as other outside charities and organisations. Members were informed that a copy of the action plan would be brought to Committee for their comments.
It was the aim of the Strategy to be able to provide a better service for residents and to have fewer household in crisis, ending in homelessness.
During the discussion, the Chair sought to the position within the service on staffing levels. The Assistant Director of Housing notified Members that there was still a high turnover of staff within the department, due to a number of reasons including the location of the Borough close to London and the higher wages that staff can earn working in London. She continued to advise the Council had an ongoing training programme covering a number of topics such as Homelessness Reduction Act, Customer Care and experience training.
The Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee are asked to comment on the draft Homelessness Prevention and Rough Sleeping Strategy 2020-25 before its presentation to Cabinet.