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Agenda item

Draft Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy 2019-2023

Summary:

 

The Homelessness Act 2002 requires local housing authorities to carry out a review of homelessness in their district at least every five years. The aim of the review being to inform, develop and publish a Homeless Strategy.

 

A review of homelessness was carried out in 2017 and a new Homeless Strategy 2018-2023 was adopted by the General Assembly of the Council on 19 March 2018.

 

This report presents an update to the Strategy, in light of new legislation and operational methods, including a requirement for the Council to publish a strategy for tackling rough sleeping.

 

Recommendation:

 

That the Cabinet approve the Homelessness and Rough Sleeper

Strategy 2019-2023, attached at Appendix A to the report.

 

Minutes:

The Housing Solutions and Private Sector Manager introduced a report which detailed changes to the existing Homelessness Strategy 2018-2023 and the proposed Draft Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy 2019-2023. The Housing Act 1996 and the Homeless Reduction Act 2017 placed a duty on local housing authorities to provide advice and assistance to homeless people and people threatened with homelessness in their areas. In order to ensure that a strategic approach was taken towards the Council’s delivery of homelessness advice and assistance by the Housing Solutions Team, the Housing Service carries out a review of homelessness and produces a Homelessness Strategy every five years as required under the Homelessness Act 2002. However in 2018 the Government announced new measures for tackling rough sleeping nationwide and that local authorities must prepare and publish a strategy in their area by December 2019, with a view to eliminating rough sleeping by 2027 and reducing it by half within the next couple of years. The existing strategy had therefore been updated to comply with the new legislation and changes in operational measures to meet the statutory requirement to publish a strategy for tacking rough sleeping. Although rough sleeping in the Borough was comparatively low, there were estimated to be 12 people sleeping rough at the time of the last rough sleeper count in 2018, it was recognised that rough sleeping could have a distressing and detrimental impact on people and the Council’s aim was to reduce the levels of rough sleeping in the borough as far as possible. The aim of the Strategy was to ‘proactively prevent homelessness and rough sleeping though strong partnership working, and to provide an inclusive and accessible service to all’.

 

The proposed Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy 2019-2023 detailed the list of achievements from actions referred to in the previous Strategy and set out new actions to be delivered up to 2021.

 

A Member asked how ‘rough sleeping’ was defined and whether the strategy would also cover ‘sofa surfers’. It was explained that ‘rough sleeping’ referred to people sleeping outside. Dartford did not have a significant number of ‘rough sleepers’ although the 12 recorded at the last count had increased from 9 at the previous count a year earlier, but these numbers were lower than those experienced by neighbouring authorities. A Member wondered whether the Strategy should include a specific objective to eliminate rough sleeping in the Borough and also suggested that it could be helpful for the report to include case studies or examples of outcomes.

 

The Housing Solutions and Private Sector Manager said that it would be possible to include case studies and outcomes. In terms of eliminating rough sleeping completely in the Borough this was not realistic as 5 or 6 of the rough sleepers out of the 12 recorded at the last count had been foreign nationals for whom public funding was not available. The Council was committed to reducing the level of rough sleeping insofar as this was possible and took steps to ensure that those individuals identified at the last rough sleeper count that could be helped would not be sleeping rough by the time of the next count. She invited Members to come in to spend time with the Housing Solutions Team to get a better understanding of their work. 

 

The Cabinet Advisory Panel endorsed the recommendations contained in the report.

 

Supporting documents: