Homelessness and Prevention - Bed and Breakfast Use
- Meeting of Joint CYP Adults Select, Joint Select Committee, Tuesday, 20th March, 2018 10.00 am (Item 6.)
To receive an overview of the Council’s use of Bed and Breakfast (B & B) accommodation in respect of the Council’s delivery of its homeless service and to consider the option of leaving units of homeless accommodation vacant for emergencies, specifically for families with children or for 16 / 17 year olds.
· Under the Housing (Wales) Act 2014, the Council has a duty to respond to homelessness. The focus of the Act is homeless prevention. However, where homelessness cannot be prevented the Council has other duties, including accommodation duties. In the event of homelessness, the Act requires the Council to:
- provide interim accommodation for applicants in priority need (S.68). The definition of priority need includes families with children and 16/17 year olds.
- help secure (this is not an absolute duty) accommodation and (S.73)
a duty to secure accommodation for applicants in priority need (S.75)
· The Council has a range of accommodation that is used to discharge these duties, together with the duty to prevent homelessness. Nevertheless, accessing an adequate supply of this accommodation is an on-going challenge for the Council. Not only is homeless accommodation itself in short supply, but it is a small part of the wider Monmouthshire housing market, which also has an under-supply of affordable accommodation. The rural nature of the County further compounds the situation.
· The challenge of providing homeless accommodation includes only having one family hostel (which is in Monmouth); the private leasing scheme has contracted over recent years; private sector accommodation is difficult to access (eg unaffordable or landlords will not accept homeless applicants); Monmouthshire County Council accommodation is typically at capacity and there is a need to have regard to the Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) (Wales) Order 2015, safeguarding and community safety issues. Although the hostel operates as emergency family accommodation, no accommodation is kept vacant for contingency or emergency purposes due to the day to day demand.
· Should it not be possible to prevent homelessness and placements are necessary, every effort is made to place households in the most suitable type of accommodation and suitably located. The views and support of other professionals and agencies, such as public protection, social workers and health visitors will be considered to inform accommodation placements. On occasions the use of B & B accommodation is necessary. This, however, is an absolute last resort. B & B accommodation for any applicant is only used for an applicant if no other accommodation can be sourced or if the applicant is deemed to pose a risk to other households or applicants. The latter is not uncommonly identified through risk assessment procedures.
· As at the end of February 2018, 39 B & B placements had been necessary. This is an increase from 2016/17.
· It has been an on-going priority in respect of the Council’s homeless service to continually seek to strengthen homeless prevention and to identify additional forms of accommodation. It is proposed that services continue to be reviewed on an on-going basis.
· To consider the option of keeping accommodation vacant for emergency purposes and with particular regard to families with children or young people 16 / 17.
· At present, the County Council does not have a policy that covers the use of B & B accommodation. It is considered that it is appropriate to establish a policy that creates a working framework that sets the expectations of the Council and a basis for monitoring against.
The following options are available:
· Option 1 – Continue with the status quo and make no changes.
· Option 2 – Leave a unit(s) of existing accommodation vacant (e.g. a room in the hostel, room in shared housing) as a contingency. This will have cost implications, mainly through loss of income. If this were to apply to accommodation managed by partners, the Council would have to cover the cost of any rental charges.
· Option 3 - Seek to introduce further options that strengthens homeless prevention and introduce new accommodation options, particularly a supported lodgings scheme. Such schemes, however, will not provide provision for applicants assessed as unsuitable through risk assessment processes.
· It was acknowledged that B & B accommodation was not good enough as an option for accommodating homeless people, particularly families with school aged children, as this could disrupt the children’s schooling.
· Support was expressed for option 3 in relation to a supported lodgings scheme. This system is working well in London.
· During the recent spell of cold weather, the Authority placed one homeless person into B & B accommodation. This option was offered to another homeless person but the offer was refused.
· With regard to preventing homelessness, at the end of last year the Authority was just below the Welsh average. This year there has been an improvement around the prevention of homelessness that the Authority has been able to undertake.
· B & B expenditure is not particularly high. In month 11 £20,000 was spent. Housing benefit is clawed back on about two thirds of this sum.
· The Housing Department has a prevention pot within its budget whereby the Team has flexibility to use this sum of money creatively to prevent homelessness.
· An additional resource from Welsh Government has been used to appoint additional staffing in the form of a Young Persons Accommodation Officer.
· Out of hours emergency contact telephone numbers for homeless people requiring emergency accommodation needs to be made widely available across all agencies that might come into contact with these people.
· One of the recommendations of the report is that there is a policy for the use of B & B accommodation, which will include targets. A report will be presented to the appropriate Select Committee in the coming months.
· Most of the B & B accommodation is located in Newport and Abertillery. Efforts are made to ensure that children continue to receive their education in their school. However, transport is generally no longer provided due to budget pressures. There is a suitability criteria located within the legislation. Therefore, in making any placement this will ensure that any legal criteria is being met.
· It was considered that if a family is moved away from its home into temporary accommodation the children should be able to get to school safely in order to maintain some stability if their home life has been severely disrupted.
· 2014/15 experienced the lowest number of B & B placements. However, private leasing stock was significantly higher then.
· Private landlords in Monmouthshire have high expectations regarding the rent levels that they expect to achieve. The Housing Department is working with families that are receiving housing benefit and there is a set amount of how much these people can afford to pay in rent. Therefore, it is very difficult to place them in private accommodation. Welsh Government grants have helped in providing cash incentives to private landlords for them to provide accommodation to residents who might not necessarily be able to afford private rental accommodation, ordinarily.
· The lodgings scheme could be for a long or short term period and could support a reduction in loneliness and isolation. The Housing Department is open to exploring this option further.
· Placements often occur on the same day. B & B accommodation is a safeguarding placement where vulnerable people can be accommodated.
· The Authority has a legal duty to prevent homelessness. Therefore, temporary accommodation is used. Some stays can be quite long. However, the shared housing scheme is an option being provided by the Authority, which is not widely available in Wales.
· The Authority works closely with housing associations which allows for direct placements to be made.
· The aim is to have a balanced register that is providing accommodation to all groups in as fair a way as possible.
· Before the Housing Department works with the private rental sector, the Team ensures that any work required is undertaken by the landlord beforehand. Environmental Health inspects all types of accommodation to ensure good standards are maintained. The requirement for Landlords to register with Rent Smart Wales has helped to maintain standards.
· In terms of developing any scheme, the Department works in partnership with various organisations.
· For the long term, more accommodation may be required.
· The Regional Strategy is evolving with an opportunity for regional initiatives to be undertaken.
· Night Stop is a model that can be considered. However, there are some issues surrounding the funding of a place, which needs to be addressed.
· Reference was made to the number of placements of people with mental health issues. The Housing Department would collate this information and email to the Select Committees.
· In response to a Select Committee Member’s question regarding mental health specialists, it was noted that the Authority works closely with practitioners within Social Care. However, there is no specific resource within the Team.
· Monmouthshire County Council does look at other local authorities with regard to achieving best practise. The Authority is a member of the All Wales Homeless Network and the Team attends these meetings.
(i) To note the circumstances in which the Council is needing to use B & B accommodation for homeless purposes and the standard of service that is being provided.
(ii) to note the benefits and viability of keeping accommodation vacant for contingency and emergency purposes.
(iii) to note the options for avoiding the use of B & B accommodation, in particular, option 3 - Seek to introduce further options that strengthens homeless prevention and introduce new accommodation options, particularly a supported lodgings scheme. Such schemes, however, will not provide provision for applicants assessed as unsuitable through risk assessment processes.
(iv) to support the establishment of a B & B policy for future consideration by the Select Committees.
(v) that the report includes:
- reference to families that have been moved away from their home into temporary accommodation and that the children should be able to get to school safely in order to maintain some stability if their home life has been severely disrupted.
- A specialist mental health officer should be working within the team.
- A cost benefit analysis should be undertaken regarding whether it is cheaper to reserve places for a family and for single people balanced against the cost of emergency B & B accommodation.
- Out of hours emergency contact telephone numbers for homeless people requiring emergency accommodation needs to be made widely available across all agencies.
- 7a 180309 B & B Report to Select - B & B, item 6. PDF 344 KB
- 7b 180309 - B & B FGA, item 6. PDF 157 KB
- 7c 180308 B & B Appendix Flow Chart - Safeguarding Reassurances, item 6. PDF 201 KB