Minutes of meeting: Wednesday 7th June 2023

4th All-Party Parliamentary Group for Households in Temporary Accommodation.

Wednesday 07/06/2023, 11.00-12.00, hybrid meeting
Room C, 1 Parliament St.

Joint Secretariats: Shared Health Foundation (SHF) and Justlife (JL)

Attendees:

Sam Pratt (SHF), Christa Maciver (JL), Siobhain McDonagh (MP, Labour), Baroness Natalie Bennett (Green party), Rob McCartney (Manchester City Council), Ian Swift (Islington Council), Jonathan Pritchard (Southern NHS Foundation Trust), Paul Sylvester (Bristol Council), Lord Richard Best, Mary D’Arcy (Common Projects), George O’Neill (Cardinal Hulme)

Number of attendees online: 37

Purpose:

To discuss the impact of Temporary Accommodation on Local Authorities across London, Manchester, and Bristol.

Meeting

Chair of APPG Siobhain McDonagh (SM) began the meeting and introduced the first speaker Rob McCartney (RM) Assistant Director for Homelessness for Manchester City Council.

RM provided an overview of Manchester Councils position on TA.

  • Extremely challenging, there are still 3200 households in TA however, the shift towards homelessness prevention work and changing our allocations policy has helped reduce numbers.
  • There were 227 households in B&Bs now 37, stays are only for 6 weeks no longer.
  • Striving to reduce number of households moved out of area. 1 family currently placed out of catchment area.

Actions:

  • Aim is to improve work on prevention from TA with alternative supply. Negotiations with landlords and preventing section 21 evictions.
  • Cost of placing households in B&Bs projected at £33 million pounds, currently £7 million in a full year.
  • Changing allocation policy – households accepting private rented sector (PRS) properties continue to be owed same level of priority for social housing allocation and therefore more willing to accept PRS.
  • Housing line officers checking 415 cases per week, working on prevention opportunities and move-on options.
  • Prioritising paying for prevention than investing in TA. Preventing households becoming homeless can reduce demand for TA.

Ian Swift (IS) Director of Housing Needs and Strategy for Islington Council (Second speaker).

IS provided an overview of Islington Council’s position on TA.

  • The homelessness framework is broken.
  • Massive overspends in budgets, pressures from homelessness prevention and homeless services.
  • Services are led by residents’ needs and political ambitions – we don’t believe people should be in TA, and if they are it should only be for a short stay.
  • Any prolonged stays can affect mental health, links with health, adult and children’s services and educational attainment.
  • 1050 households currently living in TA, with 50% of those placed out of borough.
  • Last 12 months a 35% increase in TA usage. This is due to PRS markets offering no LHA rates.
  • More people in TA than last year due to reduction in social rented accommodation.
  • Forced to move people outside Islington as cannot rehouse them.
  • 50% households living in council own TA. Other 50% living in some form of PRS that is not secure.
  • More government investment in homelessness sector is needed.

Actions:

  • Like Manchester, we are redesigning our allocation scheme in July, providing more priority to those in prevention stage.
  • Putting people into private rented sectors; we don’t use B&Bs.
  • Need to reshape service providers and redesign the homelessness framework.
  • 30% LHA rates must be reinstalled as the current structure is flawed.
  • Welcome a new approach to TA usage into a more regulatory framework, to keep focus on residents. A greater focus on TA Action Groups with Shelter & Crisis as the residents’ voices are crucial.

Paul Sylvester (PS) Head of Housing Options for Bristol Council (third speaker).

PS provided an overview of Bristol Council’s position on TA.

  • There has been a rising increase in TA usage; 87% increase compared to number of households before the pandemic.
  • Currently 1300 households in TA- difficult to reduce.
  • Last couple years we have seen a steady rise in family with children households using TA.
  • Policy aim is not to place households out of area, but if we can’t rehouse them within Bristol, then we re-allocate them to areas with easy access to transport.
  • Alongside increase in TA, rising costs due to increase in placements and inflationary pressures increasing the average unit cost in managed private TA.
  • Our net costs in TA are £11.5 million which is putting pressure on council budgets. Housing subsidy is also fixed at the 2011 rates adding to this concern.
  • High housing provider charges are the main issue- unsustainable.
  • Significant financial pressures on social care- considering cuts to homelessness services.
  • Average rent in PRS is between £350 to £1300 p/m dependent on size of the property.
  • Capacity to supply TA for growing demand isn’t there but we are working on it!
  • LHA fixed rates compared to market rates is a massive problem.
  • Limited availability of TAs in Bristol impacting on households’ support networks as moved away.
  • Emergency situation – not enough emergency grant available to manage homelessness pressures.

Actions:

  • Council delivers millions of pounds in homelessness services.
  • Homelessness grant from DHLUC at £3 million per year, however, this is not enough to cover costs.
  • Working ambitiously to provide a growing number of affordable housings. We are working on council housing new bill programme – 1000 new affordable homes in 2024.
  • More supply of social rented housing.
  • Emergency Accommodation (EA) Standards Framework released in 2016, to improve management of standards. All properties inspected. Have seen improvement in quality of provision. We are working with providers delivering properties at lower end of market.
  • Justlife taken interest in Bristol, establishing TAAG and we are meeting them for the first-time next week.
  • Cross-cutting cross-council TA programme. Aims to reduce the cost of TA to council and meet the needs of clients.
  • Over allowance on privately managed TA system. We are keen to address this by commissioning more supported housing and increasing in-house provision. Plans to achieve this by this year.
  • Increasing supply, converting council assets, acquiring properties of a new build, and installing module units.

Jonathan Pritchard (JP) Associate Director of Housing and Community Inclusion at Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust who presented overview of services and work achieved across county of Hampshire and city of Southampton.

3 mains streams to my role:

  • Looking at discharge destinations for services users – how we are discharging them along with links to housing teams.
  • Approach and strategy towards key worker accommodation.
  • Changing how we work within the community.

How we work with Local Authorities (LA) partners to ensure that people owed can stay in their own homes or move through systems easily.

  • The ‘Everyone In’ campaign example: Joint workers supported people who were homeless or at risk of homelessness; created new partnerships with LAs embedding mental health clinicians into local authority housing teams.
  • Currently 5 posts live covering 6 LA areas. These roles are preventing hospital admissions, avoiding evictions, keeping people safe and well in the community.
  • Data set from 1 LA that had MH nurse embedded in team. Colleague remained in post for year when data was collected supported 50 clients: prevented 9 people needing hospital admissions who were in community-based accommodation, 14 referrals made to social care authorities, 2 referred to specialist support action for those with more complex needs in TA, 10 avoided evictions.
  • Reducing social stressors in service users lives that prevents them from engagement with housing providers and LA teams such as piloting citizens advice in the hospital. First 12 months of pilot, citizens advice worked with 64 people. 388 distinctive advice needs. Main advice areas are housing and financing but also supporting those with wider issues i.e., transport. £115,000 financial benefit for these people.
  • Working with DWP, and job centre colleagues delivering drop-in sessions for our service users.
  • Interventions allow quicker discharge and sustainability. People who are more settled are less like to need emergency health care or TA.
  • Implementation of these opportunities demonstrate better support for underserved populations.
  • Must build trust between partners, share information in the government framework, individuals and organisations to be more agile in response to local issues, and remove stigma often attached to mental health and living in TA.
  • Be honest – are we serious about ending homelessness.

Questions:

SM opened the panel for Q&A:

Q1:

Lord Richard Best Is the Oversight Bill on supported exempt accommodation helping, should it need to be licensed and how much do LAs use this type of accommodation?

IS We support Bob Blackman’s Oversight Bill on supported exempt accommodation. It is needed! We don’t use exempt accommodation for TA because of the dangers of placing households in this sector.

RM Our TA figures do not support exempt accommodation. Work happening on supported exempt is most needed.

PS 1250 units of supported accommodation for households which is deemed as supported exempt. We do not have any dodgy providers of supported exempt accommodation.

Q2:

Online What capacity do landlords have to monitor and enforce minimum standards of TA and is there anything we can do so that medical evidence is not charged for?

SM: Recommend seeing your local MP.

IS Islington Council does have a quality standard framework– available on our website. We have a standard for TA, we are expecting all landlords to hit that standard. In terms of charge, we have policy not to go to doctor. We will write professional medical review.

RM We would contact GPs directly and we wouldn’t charge for it. Our TA properties are inspected, though there is much pressure in housing teams and homelessness sector. Needs to be an improvement on standards in PRS.

PS Our properties are inspected but we struggle to have routine inspections of standards. We don’t have the money to employ people to inspect standards proactively.

Q3:

Mary D’Arcy Is there a push from this committee to look at LHA and subsidy requirements, to talk about the policy on this, the requirements and where it is currently sitting?

SM What are the co-secretariats doing for families and children?

Sam Pratt What we found working in Greater Manchester is that families placed in TA have no wider support to help them engage with education, health, housing, etc. Not anyone’s fault just no funding or resources available. At SHF we implement Focused Care workers to work one-to-one with families. An advocate providing holistic support for families and working in the middle space with the family, LAs and other sectors involved.

Q4:

George O’Neill Are there any lessons or interventions to improve child support in TA?

RM Confusion between rough sleeping and homelessness. Reality is that 10,000 families a day needing TA. We don’t have properties to rehouse families quickly in Manchester. We have a new way we view homelessness. Most homeless families are in TA. Starting point is to focus on homeless families and separate rough sleeping and family homelessness.

PS Most families who are homeless need some support. We are looking at commissioning more supported accommodation with registered providers. We are focused on improving family experience in TA.

Q5:

Online What is the greatest prospect for positive change in London?

IS Subsidy in Islington is broken – redesign of homelessness framework is society’s responsibility to solve homelessness. Focused groups to channel residents’ voice are crucial to implement sustainable change. Ultimately, there is a need for more social housing.

Plans for next APPG

To investigate housing benefit subsidy and local housing allowance rates for residents living in TA.

Meeting concluded at 12pm.