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Housing Strategy 2018 to 2023

Objective 3: meeting housing needs and supporting vulnerable people

People can be vulnerable for a variety of reasons including age or disability and poor housing conditions can detrimentally affect a person's ability to maintain their independence in their own home.

Who are our Vulnerable People?

Our vulnerable people are:

  • older people
  • learning Disabilities
  • physical Disabilities
  • homeless
  • ex-offenders
  • young People
  • low income
  • migrants/refugees
  • people with multiple needs
  • care Leavers
  • gypsy/traveller show people
  • domestic violence
  • unemployed
  • mental health
  • substance misuse

In considering our approach in supporting vulnerable people to access suitable accommodation, national and local policy drivers need to be taken into account including:

The Care Act 2014

The Care Act 2014 helps to improve people's independence and wellbeing. It makes clear that Local Authorities must provide or arrange services that help prevent people developing needs for care and support or delay people deteriorating such that they would need ongoing care and support.

Stockton-on-Tees Joint Health and Well-being Strategy

The overarching plan to improve the health and wellbeing of children and adults in our borough and to reduce health inequalities.

Adult Social Care Strategy 2017-20

The Adult Social Care Strategy 2017-20 acts as a single focus for improvement and change within Adult Social Care.

Stockton-on-Tees Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA)

The Stockton-on-Tees Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) identifies and defines the wider health and wellbeing needs of the people of Stockton Borough. It brings together - in one place - information, statistics, data and analysis. It enables the widest spectrum of partners and organisations (whether public, private or VCSE) to have the intelligence they need to ensure health and social care strategies, commissioning and service delivery work together for better provision of services for areas of greatest need.

Homelessness Reduction Act 2017

The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 places legal duties on English councils so that everyone who is homeless or at risk of homelessness within 56 days will have access to meaningful help, irrespective of their priority need status, as long as they are eligible for assistance.

Following the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 the Council has produced a separate Homelessness Reduction Strategy 2018-23 which sets out our approach to supporting vulnerable people and preventing homelessness, as well as detailing how we will work with partners to implement the new duties arising from the legislation.

More information about our approach and what actions we will take to prevent homelessness and support our vulnerable residents can be found in our Homelessness Reduction Strategy 2018 -23.

What we need to focus on and why

Aging Population

An aging population presents a strategic challenge for the Council, it is important that we work with our partners and Registered Providers to ensure more housing choices are available to support the increasing needs of older people with a variety of housing needs. Demand for bungalows and extra care far outstrips supply so we need to work creatively to identify other options to meet the needs and aspirations of our aging population and to balance this with the need to provide larger family homes.

Housing for People with Disabilities

The Council recognises the importance of helping our residents to maintain their independence and quality of life in their own homes and communities. Along with our partners we deliver services to enable some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in the borough to live independently in their own home.

The Council is committed to supporting people with learning disabilities, autism or complex needs to live as independently as possible and to enable them to have the same rights as everyone else. As people with learning disabilities are living longer it's vital that a range of accommodation options are available to provide places where their care and support can be delivered

There are a range of accommodation options for people with learning disabilities and autism throughout the borough, some directly commissioned by the Council. Options range from care homes, adapted general needs housing to bespoke schemes that provide supported living with care, such as Acorn House in Thornaby.

It is important that the design of new build housing considers the principles of 'lifetime homes' to provide appropriate housing options for people who have physical disabilities and those who may develop a physical disability so that they are able to remain in their homes where possible. This is vital in helping the Council manage social care responsibilities and costs.

In addition to supporting the development of suitable new build accommodation the Council also delivers disabled adaptations for households predominantly in the private sector to enable those residents to maintain their independence and continue to live in their own homes. The number and types of adaptations completed by the council over recent years reflects the growing numbers of older people and the need for adaptations that prevent trips and falls, such as stair lifts and ramps. During 2016/17 the Council implemented 210 adaptations for 183 people in the Borough. Of these 72% were for people aged over 55, 85% of all adaptations were for ramps, stair-lifts and level entry showers. 73% of adaptations were carried out in Owner Occupied homes, 19% in Registered Provider homes, and 8% in Privately Rented homes. The average DFG grant in this financial period was £5,493.70 and the average time from when the client first contacted adult social care until completion of the works was 22 weeks.

The Council is also making greater use of flexibility and freedoms around Disabled Facilities Grant funding by the provision of an equipment loan scheme that allows the Council to loan stair lifts and ramps to residents who would otherwise not be eligible for a DFG or would have to wait in excess of 6 months. This approach ensures those residents who need help the most receive it in a timely manner and contributes towards the prevention of trips and falls and inevitable admissions to hospital, it can also be used to support early discharges from hospital. When equipment is no longer needed it is returned to the Council and can be reused to help other people. During 2016/2017 the Council processed 83 Equipment Loans - 66 stairlifts and 17 Ramps and the average time from when the client first contacted adult social care until completion of the works was 12 weeks.

The Council works closely with Housing Providers to provide a range of Supported Housing options to meet the needs of our vulnerable residents. Also known as extra care or housing with care this provision can take a number of forms including Extra Care Housing and Sheltered Housing. This type of accommodation allows people more independence than a care home along with additional care for extra piece of mind. This could include resident management staff, mobility facilities and community alarm services.

The Council will work closely with our partners to assist households and individuals to sustain an independent lifestyle by connecting good quality homes to services including health, education, training and employment with a particular focus on providing support to those facing barriers and are less able to help themselves, such as care leavers and members of the armed forces.

Homelessness and Temporary Accommodation

The implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 and the duties it imposes has led to the Council undertaking a review of the way we deliver services to support people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. We have introduced a new way of working that will be sustainable in the long term and will lead to improved outcomes for our residents. Our revised approach moves us away from crisis intervention and more towards developing stronger partnerships with customers to focus on early intervention and the prevention of homelessness.

The health and wellbeing of people who experience homelessness is poorer than that of the general population. The longer a person experiences homelessness, particularly from young adulthood, the more likely their health and wellbeing will be at risk. Whilst the causes of homelessness are complex, mental ill health is a major contributory factor. Becoming homeless can worsen existing mental health conditions or cause mental illness to occur. Drug and alcohol misuse can also be both a cause and consequence of homelessness and a proportion of our most vulnerable residents may experience both drug and alcohol and mental ill health at the same time.

A health needs audit was undertaken in 2016 with the aim of increasing the evidence available about the health needs of people who are homeless and to help commissioners understand the effectiveness of the services we currently provide. The audit identified that around 70% of people accessing homelessness services have a mental health problem and 64% have drug and/or alcohol problems. We are committed to working closely with our colleagues within SBC Public Health and across the health system to further understand the impact of homelessness on health and wellbeing, to embed assessment of health needs within our approach to homelessness prevention and to strengthen early identification, intervention and support with those who are at risk of homelessness.

In 2017 the Council renewed its commitment to supporting our most vulnerable homeless residents by commissioning a number of service providers to deliver short term accommodation based housing related support to enable vulnerable adults, homeless families and young people to gain and maintain suitable, sustainable accommodation.

Stockton-on-Tees has successfully maintained an exceptionally low number of households accepted as statutory homeless due to excellent prevention work. The main reasons people access the service remained consistent from 2014 to 2018 with our top 4 reasons for presentation as follows:

  • Households asked to leave by family and friends.
  • Termination of assured short hold tenancy
  • Violent breakdown of relationships
  • Rough Sleeping

Nationally rough sleeping is a big issue and is taking an increasingly prominent position on the Government's housing agenda. Often there is a perception that homelessness is individuals sleeping on the streets, which in the case of large cities is a reality. Our most recent rough sleepers estimate took place in November 2017 and identified 2 individuals who were thought to be sleeping rough on the night the estimate took place. In our borough the vast majority of homeless people aren't rough sleepers, they are families or single people who are 'sofa surfing' (staying with friends or relatives) or living in temporary accommodation such as bed and breakfast hotels, hostels or refuges. For many this is as a result of them being unable to access available accommodation because it is unaffordable for them. The Council has access to ample accommodation to ensure no one has to sleep rough and in line with national guidance we adhere to the No Second Night Out approach and Severe Weather Emergency Protocol.

Young People and Care Leavers

Young people who are also care leavers and young people under 18 years old are supported by the Council's Resources Team and the Leaving Care Team to help make the transition from care to independent living. The Looked After Children and Care Leavers Strategy 2016-18 sets out the Council's approach to ensuring every child and young person with a safe, happy, healthy, secure and loving childhood, nurturing their aspirations and enabling them to meet their full potential.

There is an agreed protocol between the Council's Homelessness Prevention Service and the Resources team to ensure that wherever young people present as homeless that they are directed to the right service and can access dedicated support as soon as they need it. The support provided ensures appropriate guidance and advice is in place through dedicated Personal Adviser support, all children and young people have an up to date and comprehensive Pathway Plan, there are a range of accommodation options, including Staying Put and Supported Lodgings and support for access into employment, education and training.

The Council has commissioned supported accommodation that provides support to care leavers who are ready and willing to move towards living independently, this includes a dedicated crash pad that provides an emergency bed for a night for young people who may be in crisis. Further information about our approach to housing for homeless young people and care leavers can be found in our Homelessness Reduction Strategy 2018-23

Domestic Abuse

In recognition of the impact Domestic Abuse has on families and children the Council has produced the Stockton-on-Tees Domestic Abuse Strategy 2017 - 2022 that sets out how a multi-agency approach is being taken to prevent people from becoming victims and perpetrators of domestic abuse, and provide support and protection for those who need it. More than £100,000 in additional funding has been allocated to support domestic violence and abuse services available to residents of the borough and the Council continues to commission crisis refuge accommodation to support domestic abuse victims and their families. The Housing Service works closely with specialist partner agencies to provide advice and access to accommodation to meet the needs of complex individuals and families who are often turned away from services. Further information about our approach to providing support to domestic abuse victims facing homelessness can be found in our Homelessness Prevention Strategy 2018.

Gypsies and Travellers

The Council provides 27 permanent plots for the borough's Travelling Community at its Mount Pleasant Grange site. Recent inspections of the utility blocks have highlighted areas where repairs are required. The Council has committed resources to carry out the repair works and will be working with occupants over the coming months to complete repairs. This investment in the Mount Pleasant Site at Bowesfield will ensure we continue to meet need and our statutory duties.

Welfare Reform

The Welfare Reform Act (2012) introduced a number of changes that affected the income of people living in Stockton-on-Tees. The most notable is the 'spare room subsidy' (more commonly known as the bedroom tax) which means that social housing tenants can no longer claim for bedrooms that they have been assessed as not requiring. It also capped housing benefits to 4 bedroom properties meaning large families who require 5 or more bedrooms (largely in the private sector) have to pay any rent not covered by housing benefit. For some people welfare benefits have been capped and for people under 21 years old it is proposed to stop automatic entitlement to housing benefits.

Welfare reforms have affected other entitlements for residents of the borough, including the Local Housing Allowance caps for under 35s and those in supported housing (due to come into force in 2019). The announcement by the Government to drop their plans to introduce the Local Housing Allowance cap for both general needs social housing and supported housing are welcomed by the Council and is good news for our residents who rely on Housing Benefit to help cover their housing costs, particularly those who live in supported accommodation.

Over the coming years the Council will see the roll out of the Government's flagship welfare reform policy - Universal Credit. This will significantly change the way that people claim benefits and how much they will receive. Payment levels have been frozen until 2020 which will see claimants see their incomes cut in real terms taking into account inflation and rising prices within the economy. The Council's Welfare Rights team are working hard to ensure our residents understand what these changes will mean for them and are providing a range of support options to help them manage their finances and where required support them to find affordable accommodation to prevent them becoming homeless due to the changes.

Supported Housing Funding

The Government has recently consulted on how supported housing might be funded in the future, which may involve providing funding directly to council's for them to spend on locally identified support needs. Details on how the new funding regime will work are still to be confirmed however, it will present opportunities for the Council to work with key partners to develop a more joined up approach to commissioning services, meeting key objectives for housing, health and social care.

What we are going to do and how

Our priorities and actions directly respond to the challenges outlined in this chapter and support the key priorities identified in the Council Plan 2018-21 and Economic Growth Plan 2017-20, and therefore, provide a consistent thread through all our activity.

Priority 1: Develop the range of accommodation options available for older people and those with disabilities


We will: 

  • develop the range of accommodation options available for older people and those with disabilities
  • continue to support people with disabilities and mental health needs to stay in their own homes
  • provide a range of housing options for older people to meet their housing needs

Priority 2: Preventing and relieving homelessness


We will: 

  • undertake the statutory homelessness prevention and relief duty
  • monitor trends in homelessness and evaluate customer profile
  • provide timely and accessible information and advice focused on homeless prevention
  • develop sustainable housing options in the Social Housing and Private Rented sector
  • support households to remain in their home
  • establish robust and effective pathways with partners (Duty to Refer)

Priority 3: Preventing rough sleeping


We will: 

  • evaluate the suitability of an additional priority status for rough sleepers and people in temporary accommodation (including B&B) on the Compass CBL Allocations Policy for accessing social housing waiting lists
  • work with housing providers (across all tenures) to explore alternative accommodation options and maximise access to long-term sustainable accommodation 
  • ensure that any family placed in B&B is moved to alternative, suitable temporary accommodation as quickly as possible.
  • work to ensure a sufficient supply of appropriate temporary accommodation (other than B&B).
  • reduce the use and time spent in B&B
  • ensure that any B&B used complies with the suitability requirements of the Homelessness Reduction Act

Priority 4: Reduce the use of B&B and temporary accommodation


We will: 

  • evaluate the suitability of an additional priority status for rough sleepers and people in temporary accommodation (including B&B) on the Compass CBL Allocations Policy for accessing social housing waiting lists
  • work with housing providers (across all tenures) to explore alternative accommodation options and maximise access to long-term sustainable accommodation
  • ensure that any family placed in B&B is moved to alternative, suitable temporary accommodation as quickly as possible
  • work to ensure a sufficient supply of appropriate temporary accommodation (other than B&B)
  • reduce the use and time spent in B&B

Priority 5: Maximise the effectiveness of commissioned housing related support services


We will: 

  • ensure clear pathways for all households placed into commissioned housing related support
  • identify and address the support needs of homeless people in commissioned housing related support services to enable them to live independently
  • ensure timely move on to sustainable accommodation
  • ensure effective engagement by all stakeholders in the delivery of the service