To consider the draft South Lakeland District Council Homelessness Strategy 2019-2024.
The Deputy Leader and Housing and Innovation Portfolio Holder introduced the report, explaining that the 2002 Homelessness Act required local authorities to conduct a review of homelessness and following on from this to develop a homelessness strategy. The purpose of the strategy was the prevention of homelessness, to secure sufficient accommodation for people who were or may become homeless and to secure the provision of support for those who were or may become homeless so that they did not become homeless again.
South Lakeland District Council had been working in partnership with a range of partners from the voluntary and statutory sectors to develop a Homelessness Strategy for the period 2019 - 2024. As a first step, the Council had conducted a Review of homelessness in 2018, the findings of which had been considered by the South Lakeland Strategic Homelessness Group and details of which were set out at Appendix 2 of the Strategy. The Strategic Homelessness Group was a multi-agency group chaired by the Portfolio Holder for Housing, People and Innovation. A workshop had held on 4 December 2018 with relevant stakeholders to discuss the priorities arising from the Review and agree actions that could be taken forward into the Homelessness Strategy 2019 - 2024. The key actions had been replicated within the Strategy’s Action Plan, at Appendix 1 to the Strategy, and the feedback from this Workshop was detailed within Appendix 3 of the draft Strategy. This work had helped to shape the priorities in the new Strategy which were, in no particular order:-
• homelessness prevention;
• increasing the supply of settled accommodation;
• ensuring appropriate support was available; and
• tackling complex needs.
The priorities were framed within the overarching priority of partnership working, as it was recognised that homelessness was not an issue that could be addressed by a single organisation. However, the Council could work together with other statutory and third sector organisations to help achieve these priorities. The Strategic Homelessness Group provided a mechanism to embed partnership working with other partners, such as Cumbria County Council, who had a duty to assist in the development of the Homelessness Strategy and were represented on the Group. Developing commitment to collaboration should be strengthened by the recent adoption of the Cumbria Public Health Strategy which recognised the contribution that access to housing and preventing homelessness had in promoting health.
The draft South Lakeland District Council Homelessness Strategy 2019 – 2024 had subsequently been developed and was attached as Appendix 1 to the report.
The Action Plan needed to be updated on an annual basis and would be reported to the Housing Advisory Group and Strategic Homelessness Group as stipulated in the Strategy, before being signed off by the Director of Customer and Commercial Services. Updated Action Plans needed then to be sent to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
Details in relation to consultation which had been carried out were included within the report. The Overview and Scrutiny Committee had recommended the document for approval to Cabinet at its meeting on 26 April 2019 (O&S/73 (2018/19) refers), also raising a couple of minor amendments which had subsequently been made to the glossary.
In closing, the Housing and Innovation Portfolio Holder expressed thanks to the Principal Housing Strategy Officer and Team for their work in preparing the Strategy. The Leader and Promoting South Lakeland Portfolio Holder in turn thanked the Deputy Leader and Housing and Innovation Portfolio Holder for a complete and well thought out report.
Members welcomed the high calibre report, further commending the author, the Principal Housing Strategy Officer.
Discussion took place on the need for appropriate liaison between authorities with regard to hospital and prison leavers and for the provision of clear pathways with regard to urgent requirements for housing the vulnerable. Also raised was the question of where the Housing Authority was not also the Planning Authority. Attention was drawn to the second action on page 103 at Appendix 3 to the report (Feedback from Workshop Discussions held on 4 December 2018) and to the second action point which, it was felt, required clarification. Members talked about the issue of restrictive covenants being a barrier to first home buyers and the potential for the development of policy whereby appropriate insurance might be provided by the Council to mortgagors.
The Deputy Leader and Housing and Innovation Portfolio Holder agreed that there needed to be a focus on publicising pathways for people to follow and that more work could be carried out in the area of housing provision following discharge from hospitals and prisons. He informed Members that he was open to suggestions on how to improve the housing market and methods of intervention to encourage lenders to lend and innovative ways by which to encourage house ownership. He reminded Members that the Council had a statutory duty to deal with vulnerable people, details of which were explained by the Principal Housing Strategy Officer. The Leader and Promoting South Lakeland Portfolio Holder pointed out that a Member training session on Housing and Homelessness was scheduled to be held at 11.00 a.m. on 11 June 2019 and suggested that the relevant details might be included as part of the handout.
Members having raised issues around community support and the need for children to be educated in life skills, the Deputy Leader and Housing and Innovation Portfolio Holder agreed that statutory support was not always available and with the need for education for young people to enable them to fend for themselves, however, pointed out that school agendas were already full to capacity. He asked Members, therefore, to prevail on Government to change the national curriculum to include such themes. He also agreed with the need for encouragement of strong communities.
Also raised was the detrimental impact of Universal Credit and changes to the welfare system which, it was felt, was not assisting the homelessness situation throughout the country.
The Leader and Promoting South Lakeland Portfolio Holder referred to the Council budget and to capital funding which had been allocated to the provision of homelessness facilities. Homelessness was a critical function for the Authority and he highlighted the work being carried out by the Council around the provision of affordable homes to rent which might assist in alleviating the problem.
RESOLVED – That the draft South Lakeland District Council Homelessness Strategy 2019-2024 be approved.
Reasons for Decision
The South Lakeland District Council Homelessness Strategy assists in the delivery of the Council Plan priority for “Housing” “providing homes to meet need.” The Council and its partners will work together to significantly reduce the risk of homelessness.
Alternative Options Considered and Rejected
Cabinet could decide not to approve the draft South Lakeland District Council Homelessness Strategy 2019-2024. However, this was not recommended as the Council has to have a Homelessness Strategy and update this every five years in accordance with the Homelessness Act 2002 and would not be complying with this legislation.