One has to say well done, congratulations and thank you to those who have worked on Report Number: C/20/54 – draft Homelessness Prevention Strategy 2020/25. Adrian Hammond and his team have excelled themselves and for that they should be applauded. The report clearly demonstrates the council is trying to do something about rough sleepers and homelessness in our district.
Also thanks must go to those organisations and individuals who continue to help and assist those less fortunate in our district.
Since the local election in May 2019, one has to say opposition Cllrs, John Wing (Green), Michelle Keutenius (Lab) and Gary Fuller (Lib Dem) have excelled themselves on the homelessness issue. It would be unfair and unjust not to congratulate both Cllr David Godfrey (Con) (Housing Cabinet Member) & Jenny Hollingsbee (Cabinet Member for Communities) for their efforts as well.
Each of those named above dealt with the issue compassionately and delivered some excellent questions receiving some honest answers from Officers and Cabinet members at Overview & Scrutiny on the 1st Dec 2020.
The first thing revealed was the number of rough sleepers on our streets in Nov 2020. This snapshot is taken on 1 day each year, more often than not in Nov. Yes it’s flawed, but at least we have some indication of numbers and scale of the issue to be tackled.
The Council has received specific funding from Central Government through the Next Steps programme to deliver specific accommodation and support for the most vulnerable rough sleepers in the district. A suitable property is being looked for presently. The Council are also looking to purchase further accommodation, by 2025, to add to the homeless property portfolio. This is very welcome as “every little helps“.
The aim to develop a Housing First Project is one of the ways the Council proposes to reach the goal of ending rough sleeping, particularly for the most complex and entrenched rough sleepers.
Housing First is not only about unconditional affordable long-tern accommodation, but also involves the provision of unlimited intensive support that is provided until an individual no longer requires it. Outreach workers will continue to build relationships with the most entrenched rough sleepers to house them if possible whilst Housing First is developed within the district.
At the present moment (up to 1st Dec) the Council were housing 35-40 households in temporary accommodation and 15 households were in Bed & Breakfast. These households were provided homes during the Covid-19 crisis.
The average time a household spends in temporary accommodation has obviously increased due to the covid-19 situation. Some households have been in B&B for 8-10 weeks and the law says 6 weeks if you’re pregnant or have children. But with the current crisis, the council cannot truly be held responsible for this potential breach. But generally those in temporary accommodation spend on average about 3 months there while more suitable accommodation is found.
Homelessness approaches to Folkestone & Hythe District Council have increased by 25% since the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.
From the 1st Jan 2019 to the 31st Dec 2019:
1427 households approached the Council for housing assistance:
498 of these households were prevented from becoming homeless through initial advice or a Personal Housing Plan
The Council relieved the homelessness of another 263 households.
856 of the 1427 approaches were from single person households.
Of the 60% of single person households approaching 33% (283) were women, and 48% (411) were aged 35 years or under.
The number of young people aged 16-18 years approaching the Council for housing assistance increased by 55% on the previous year’s figures in 2019.
There has been a significant decrease in the use of temporary accommodation. Since 2017 the Council has reduced the use of temporary accommodation by 71%.
Almost 50% of all households approaching the Council for housing assistance have been issued with a Section 21 Notice to leave their private rented sector properties by the landlord; this reflects the same situation in the private rented sector nationally.
This demonstrates there is a clear need for more one bedroom flats to be built across the district.
As much as the efforts of the Council are welcome in assisting people while they are homeless, or threatened with homelessness, the council unfortunately do not help themselves.
The payment to supplier data shows they have paid monies to house the following companies in Bed & Breakfast accommodation, when there is no clear need for them to be there.
Crook security are a local based company who offer security solutions for your home, office, building site and vehicles. And Savants Restructing Ltd are a group of consultants who offer such services as Insolvency, Business Restructuring and Pension Advisory Services, amongst other things. Why either of these companies need to be housed in Bed & Breakfast by Folkestone & Hythe District Council, is a mystery.
As for housing Rail Travel in B&B, answers on a postcards for that one.
The council continue to pay NowMedical during the covid-19 crisis. We estimate they have paid them for approx 70 assessments during the covid crisis.
NowMedical charges £35 plus VAT for a basic report on whether someone is medically vulnerable enough to get long-term support to prevent or alleviate their homelessness. In most cases, this is produced solely on the basis of the council’s paperwork; NowMedical doctors rarely meet the person involved, and do not regularly access their full medical records or talk to their GP. On its website, NowMedical says that it can turn reports around in a single day.
So overall, the Council are beginning to seriously address the homelessness issue across our district. They are seriously moving in the right direction, aided by some excellent organisations such as the Rainbow Centre, The Salvation Army and many many others. Thank you for all your efforts. And congratulations once again to the officers and Cllrs who continue to ensure the homeless in our district are NOT forgotten.
The Shepway Vox Team
Dissent is NOT a Crime