The Interim Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change presented a reort, in order to provide Cabinet with an update regarding Bridgend County Borough Council’s (BCBC) response to the Welsh Government Homelessness Phase 2 Guidance.
As part of the Covid 19 response, all local authorities were expected to ensure that no individual was street homeless and was provided with suitable temporary accommodation. Suitable temporary accommodation was defined as having en-suite facilities and where possible access to own kitchen. For BCBC this entailed re-purposing its current temporary accommodation and under-occupying premises to ensure it met those requirements as far as possible; reducing the numbers in floor space; securing bedrooms within the local hotels that had remained open; the use of Air BNB; purchasing four homeless pods; providing flat pack furniture, microwaves, and small fridges where needed; and providing take-away meals for those without access to a kitchen. 24 hour security has also been provided for hotels.
In accordance with Welsh Government (WG) Guidance, BCBC has accommodated significantly increased numbers in temporary accommodation. Between March to November 2020, 587 households have been provided with temporary accommodation.
The Interim Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change, stated that on 3rd June 2020, WG issued Phase 2 Guidance, which made it clear that those individuals being temporarily accommodated are to be provided with permanent accommodation, with no one returning to homelessness. A Rapid Rehousing approach was to be taken to help achieve this. Funding was then made available for this through Welsh Government, but to date such funding was only available up to the end of March 2021.
Currently Bridgend Council had around 125 households being supported in temporary accommodation.
The Interim Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change, continued by informing Members, that on 30th June 2020, BCBC submitted a funding application and Phase 2 Plan to WG. The application included funding bids for 7 capital projects and 8 revenue projects. Liaison with providers and partner Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) took place and bids focused on the key areas, as were detailed in paragraph 4.2 of the report.
Three of the capital projects require planning permission and as such were going through the application process. Once delivered the capital projects would provide up to 34 units of accommodation. These will increase BCBC’s social housing stock and also allow for increased temporary accommodation units. The revenue projects will enable increased support packages to those who are homeless.
Following an agreement between BCBC and RSL partners, a RRP has been agreed and has been operational since June 2020. The Protocol explains the context within which BCBC is now working and outlines a new operational process that is being followed, to meet the pent up demand currently housed in temporary accommodation, such as hotels and Bed and Breakfast accommodation.
The Interim Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change explained further, that to date 70 households have been rehoused via the RRP, with a further 21 pending a move in date. Without this process it is likely that the numbers in temporary accommodation would be higher than the current 125 households at present.
The Cabinet Member – Wellbeing and Future Generations, advised that she was pleased to see the support proposed for the homeless in our society from Welsh Government, particularly since and in light of the pandemic. She also thanked BCBC staff and the RSL’s for taking into account the needs of people who were homeless in Bridgend and providing support in the form of the projects proposed as detailed in the report.
The Cabinet Member – Social Services and Early Help being also the Ward Member for the Morfa ward which covered most of Bridgend town, knew first-hand the extent of the homeless and rough sleepers there were in this location. She too welcomed the different levels of support aside of just providing people on the streets with accommodation, for example, support for substance abuse, etc. She asked how BCBC had compared with other welsh local authorities in terms of the level of funding it had received, as a result of submitting a bid for some of the funding that Welsh Government had made available.
The Interim Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change, advised that BCBC had been successful here when compared to other neighbouring authorities.
The Head of Partnership Services expanded upon this, by confirming that Bridgend had received £2.2m worth of funding from Welsh Government and that a Multi-Disciplinary Team had been established including BCBC partners, in order to deliver the projects proposed in the report.
In response to a further question from the Leader, he added that this Team would provide floating on-hand support to former homeless individuals, once they had secured accommodation, in order to provide them with ongoing assistance in order for them to overcome living on the streets and other ongoing problems they may have as part of their live, such as substance misuse, mental health issues, alcohol dependence and financial problems.
The Leader was also assured by the Officer that local members will be notified at the relevant stage.
RESOLVED: That Cabinet noted the report and supported: