Forest of Dean Homelessness Prevention Strategy 2012-17
Councillor Terry Hale, Cabinet Member for Community, to present report PH.119, seeking formal adoption of the Draft Homelessness Prevention Strategy for the Forest of Dean.
Councillor Terry Hale, Cabinet Member for Community, presented report PH.119, and said that Homelessness Prevention Strategy for the Forest of Dean had been considered by the Cabinet Housing Support Group on two separate occasions before being presented to this meeting for formal approval.
Councillor Hale said that the Homelessness Prevention Strategy was an overview of how the council had managed homelessness in the district over the past decade; what had worked well; what could be improved and what immediate and medium challenges the council was likely to face in the future.
He said that, during this time, the Housing Options Team had successfully prevented many households from becoming homeless and had prevented housing problems developing into serious issues by providing a more efficient service, which in the long term, would help save the council money.
He said that, despite the increasing trend elsewhere in the country, the number of homelessness applications in the district had continued to fall. It was unlikely, however, that the district would be immune from other housing problems, which had become increasingly apparent and were largely due to the continuing economic uncertainty and recent changes in welfare benefits, which might affect a number of families in the district.
Responding to a question from Councillor Diana Edwards, Cabinet Member for Strategic Partnerships and Special Projects, Councillor Hale said that the Government’s Discretionary Housing Payment had increased significantly during the past 4 years from £15,039 in 2009/10 to £44,888 in 2012/13.
At a meeting on 2 May 2012, the Cabinet Housing Support Group had said that it would like to add some additional wording to the action plan on page 66 of the agenda, in recognition of the need to retain safe accommodation in the district for women escaping domestic abuse following the introduction of the new Supporting People Domestic Abuse Contract. Action 9 of the plan was subsequently amended to include the following wording; “and to ensure that there are sufficient bed-spaces in safe accommodation within the district for those that need it’. Councillor Bernie O’Neill, (who had asked a question at the council meeting on 26 April 2012 on this issue), said that he was pleased with the amendment, but nevertheless continued to urge the council to consider investigating issues relating to the ownership of the Forest of Dean Women’s Refuge. Councillor Hale said that he would investigate the matter.
Strategic Housing Manager, Malcom Vine, said that the Gloucestershire Homeseeker, (Choice Based Lettings), System had been very successful in that it had allowed some households to resolve their housing problems before they had deteriorated into a crisis. Responding to member questions, the housing manager said that there was very little evidence of cross boundary activity in the district and that work continued on measures to prevent people from having to sleep rough. In response to a question from Councillor Jane Horne, about the number of empty homes in the district, the housing manager said that there were some empty homes in the district, but that a significant number of them were not suitable for use. He was, however, pleased to announce that a successful bid for government funding by the Marches Housing Association had allowed them to take on more empty properties in the district. In response to the more specific questions at the meeting, members were advised to contact the Strategic Housing Manager direct, or a member of his team, after the meeting.
Cabinet members commended the Strategic Housing Manager and his team on their continued hard work and said that the service they were providing was excellent. Cabinet noted report PH.119 and,
RESOLVED to adopt the Forest of Dean District Homelessness Strategy