The report was presented by Catherine Wilson.
The Chair asked for an example of how block purchasing could meet the needs of a young person and also improve value for money. She also asked if the service had considered investing in their own housing for care leavers. Catherine Wilson answered that the framework had two elements where they would individually purchase provision from a provider. If the service requested for more units, the provider would look to build or refurbish housing for the service and work together to establish a price for those blocks of accommodation. This helped to place young people in housing more quickly and there would be an expectation that there would be support immediately available for a young person. She went on to say that the service was working with the Housing Department to identify what was available in the borough for care leavers. These may be identified through the Council’s housing stock or through a developer. She said that this was not within the report but it was something that the service was considering.
The Chair commented that if the service owned the provision, it would be better value for money as this would be a good income stream for the Council. Michele Lucas referred to the current scheme of Head Start Housing where the Council had allocated money to the service to purchase a number of properties for care leavers. This was a model that the service would build upon.
Councillor Watson asked how many young people were 25 years old and transitioning to other types of housing. Catherine Wilson said that she would look into the data and circulate to Members via email.
Councillor Watson asked whether Thurrock’s housing strategy included children leaving care and transition into another property. Janet Simon said that the service tried to plan for a young person’s transition early to establish the young person’s needs early on. The service had around 280 care leavers aged between 18 – 25 years old and the service had a duty to continue to support care leavers up to the age of 25. However, the service recognised that not all young people would be ready to have their own property by 25 years old.
Referring to page 65, Councillor Anderson sought more detail on how the work within the report would support the homelessness prevention and rough sleeping strategy. Catherine Wilson explained that supported accommodation would help to ensure young people were not left homeless and to help them transition into their own property.
Referring to page 66, Sally Khawaja noted that some care leaver would need placements outside the borough. She questioned who would be responsible for the care leavers in this situation. Janet Simon said that the care leavers remained the responsibility of the local authority that had accommodated them. However, a young person was free to choose whether or not to continue with the care and whether access housing within the borough that they would be placed in. The service aimed to help young people who chose the latter option.
Councillor Akinbohun asked how long a young person had to wait for housing and whether they could come back to Thurrock if they had been placed outside the borough. Janet Simon said that there was no joint protocol within housing but some care leavers chose to stay with a foster carer where possible. Some care leavers would go into halls and the service had plans early in place to identify which ones needed housing or not. There were no young people on the housing waiting list and young people were kept informed of these processes. If a young person wished to come back into the borough, the service would try to accommodate this.
Councillor Thandi asked if a young person could transition into private accommodation. Janet Simon explained that this was dependent on the young person’s needs and whether they were able to look after themselves. She said that some young people would remain in foster care whilst they waited for housing and that a change in housing was all dependent on whether a young person was ready or not.
The Chair proposed to add an additional recommendation – 1.3.
1.1 That members reviewed the joint work that is already in place and the statutory duties on the local authority including to develop a jointly commissioned support offer for those aged 18+ who need additional support to be able to develop independence as an adult and where possible this is extended to provide support for the 16-18 year olds.
1.2 That members recommended to cabinet the commissioning of a framework of supported accommodation providers including the option to block purchase provision.
1.3 Members recommended that Cabinet investigate into opportunities to invest in housing to help meet the provision that Children’s Services need to meet the supported accommodation requirements for care leavers.