At 9.15pm, the Chair moved standing orders to extend the meeting by a further 15 minutes.
Dulal Ahmed presented the report that reflected the activities of the service during the year. The challenges faced by the Council during 2022 were well publicised and this report should be read in that context. Future service activity would need to reflect the intervention the Council found itself in. Particularly difficult decisions would need to be made on levels of service and methods of service delivery during 2023 and beyond.
Councillor Hebb thanked all those involved, the help provided in this humanitarian crisis and that ultimately the objective would be to help people return back to Ukraine and raised a couple of points:
Whether the 10% dropout withdrawal was due to there not being a full appreciation of what the role of the host was and asked for some clarification on the root cause of this. Referred to page 34 of the agenda, “wrap around services” and questioned what pastoral help and support was being provided to accommodation their lives here as best as possible. Requested further details around the wellbeing and suitability assessment between the host and sponsor and referred to the guidance provided through the job centre about building a life and career but ultimately people would want to go back to their families. Dulal Ahmed provided the following responses, in that the 10% of sponsors that had withdrawn from the scheme were properties that were not suitable as well as circumstances of sponsors changing. In regard to support, sponsors and guests were provided with a welcome sponsors pack, guest handbook and a template of house rules. This provided clarity on the role of the sponsor, expectations, and rules around what the guests would hope for and help in terms of resolving any problems with relationship breakdowns. There had been a lot of lessons learnt through the process in terms of resettlement support. In regard to the housing options, updates were available on the web site, regularly producing newsletters for sponsors which covered a range of issues to support the sponsors and their guests, regular conversations took place with the job centre around employment options. In terms of property and safeguarding checks these were undertaken monthly with sponsors and guests, working closely with the adult and children’s services teams.
Councillor Redsell raised a concern that people may get lost in the system to which Dulal Ahmed stated Thurrock would still have a duty to that Ukrainian guest if they were to move to another part of the borough or had problems with housing options they would be referred back to Thurrock for support, which was part of the funding. Councillor Redsell questioned whether the six-monthly checks was sufficient as a lot could happen in that time to which Dulal Ahmed stated monthly checks were undertaken, six monthly checks was the government’s guidance on what was expected of local authorities as part of the scheme.
Councillor Worrall thanked officers for the report and thanked them for the amazing job undertaken. She referred to the welcome payments, sponsor payments and questioned where the shortfall money was sitting and what would this be allocated to. Dulal Ahmed stated the money received from Government would be subject to increase with new arrivals and would be carrying out a reconciliation exercise on where people had left to go back to their own country and therefore the money would reduce. Further guidance was expected on what the reconciliation process would mean in terms of what the council would do with that money. That money also funded staff costs, publication, events and the money would last for three years and would need to spread over that time and be ringfenced for that purpose.
Councillor Worrall referred to those families that may become homeless and questioned whether this funding would come out of the ringfenced money and not the general HRA. Dulal Ahmed stated in terms of those families that had been provided assistance the funding under this scheme had been used but going forward the Government had announced additional funding to help local authorities so that it would not become a short or long-term burden on local authorities.
Councillor Mayes questioned whether this ringfenced funding could be used for anything else apart from this scheme to which Dual Ahmed stated no.
Councillor Hebb proposed a new recommendation for welcomes packs to be sent to all committee members, to which all members agreed.
1. The Committee commented on the progress of the Private Housing Service response to the Homes for Ukraine scheme in Thurrock.
2. The Committee noted the council can deliver its Ukrainian response programme within central government funding.
3. The Committee notes
homeless Ukrainian guests may be housed out of borough given local
housing pressures if homeless presentations steadily
4. The Committee requested that welcome packs be sent out to all committee members.