The roll-out of welfare reforms has impacted many local people with a knock-on affect on housing services. For example, around 1,150 households are being affected by the reduction in benefits due to under-occupying their home, 360 households have been capped and 17,000 households have been affected by council tax benefit changes.
The Council’s Housing Options Team and partnership agencies provide a whole range of services from advice to households who find themselves in a housing crisis and intervening to prevent homelessness, to managing homeless applications. The last 3 years has seen the Council’s Housing Options service and partner organisations prevent more than 8,500 households from becoming homeless. Each month hundreds of households seek advice and assistance from our Housing Options team and other agencies across the city and many households need more intensive intervention that requires more detailed casework.
Despite our efforts to prevent homelessness, the number of households in Temporary Accommodation has nearly doubled between March 2012 and March 2015 increasing from 752 to 1,456, although we have continued to reduce the long term use of B&B for families with children and 16/17 year olds except in emergencies.
Housing-related Support has been instrumental in enabling people to live independently and reduce requirements for institutional type care through the introduction of a tiered service for people with mental health issues, reablement for people with learning disabilities, and initiatives for homeless adults needing support with alcohol or drug issues.
We support around 3,500 vulnerable people in the city to maintain, or (re)gain, their independence, avoiding the need for more institutionalised and costly accommodation. These services include support for:
- Young people who are homeless or young parents
- People with mental health problems
- People with substance misuse problems
- Older people with support needs
- Women and children fleeing domestic violence
- Single homeless people
- People with learning disabilities
- Ex-offenders re-integrating into the community
A new Sustainable Tenancy Strategy has been developed that will help minimise tenancy breakdown amongst council tenants and support households to maximise and manage their incomes. New initiatives include contracting the Money Advice Community Support to support tenants to successfully manage their money, staff and resident training, the establishment of a learning centre at the Housing Centre and the appointment of learning and participation workers to carry out targeted intervention to improve access to and engagement in learning, skills, employment, and personal development opportunities for our tenants.
In response to the changes in welfare benefits, all staff are receiving training to ensure they are fully conversant with the changes and the impact they will have on some of our local people. The training means that staff will be able to provide advice and assistance to households to help prevent them becoming homeless and to maximise their income.