The report on pages 61 – 66 was presented by Ryan Farmer.
Carol Hinvest informed Members that the government had updated guidance for this lockdown which was different from the first. This time, lettings were allowed to continue following guidance and a lot more services could continue to be delivered. The Chair commented that the pandemic had enabled the Council to apply a housing first principle in terms of housing people first and getting people treatments and he hoped that this would be a new way forward. He said that there had been incredible work across the country and congratulated the service on their hard work.
Councillor Redsell sought clarification on whether there were still homeless people on the streets. She asked if any of them were ex-servicemen. Carol Hinvest answered that there were still a few homeless people on the streets and that the service had been trying to engage with them but they had no interest in being housed. The service had to activate their emergency weather initiative where they managed to temporarily house some of the homeless people but there remained a few on the streets. She was unsure whether any of the homeless were ex-servicemen but would check.
Referring to evictions, Councillor Worrall questioned whether the service knew how many evictions there would be and if the service were prepared for any of these evicted people that would become homeless. Carol Hinvest explained that there was an ongoing eviction ban from the first lockdown and that the service had heard of issues between private landlords and tenants. It was not known on the number of eviction cases as tenants had only been served a notice which was information between the landlord and tenant. She said that the guidance was clear on six month notices for tenants particularly where rents arrears had occurred during the pandemic. It was also clear that landlords needed to provide evidence to show that they had worked with the tenant particularly where rent arrears had occurred as a result of the pandemic. She went on to say that it was hard for the service to prepare for an unknown situation although they were aware. However, the service had been working to reduce caseloads by housing people so that the number of caseloads would be at a lower number.
Councillor Worrall asked whether the Homeless Reduction Grant covered the service’s overall homelessness budget. She also sought clarification on the cold weather fund. Carol Hinvest explained that the cold weather fund was from the government which was for the Council’s severe weather emergency protocol to enable rough sleepers to be housed. She said that the Homelessness Reduction Grant was within the General Fund as the homelessness service fell under this. Mike Jones explained that the grant was allocated to the homelessness budget did not cover the whole cost of the homelessness budget and additional funding was always needed from the General Fund to support the homelessness service. There would be an increase next year on the general homelessness budget which would help.
The Chair sought clarification on whether people had been evicted who hadn’t been accepted on full license agreements. Carol Hinvest answered that not many had been evicted and that there were a number of decisions made for some that the service no longer needed to accommodate although a number was still being accommodated. She went on to say that the guidance was opaque in some areas and due to the eviction ban, there was a limited number of accommodation available.
Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee were asked to note and comment on the contents of this update report.