Council bosses in South Tyneside back plans to tackle homelessness

Council leaders have backed a report outlining plans to improve services for rough sleepers and people  at risk of homelessness in South Tyneside.

Thursday, 19th April 2018, 3:19 pm
Updated Thursday, 19th April 2018, 3:21 pm

South Tyneside Council’s cabinet met on Wednesday (April 18) to discuss a people select committee report in preparation for new homelessness law coming into force this month.

The Homelessness Reduction Act places a legal duty on councils to provide “meaningful support” to resolve homelessness.

Officially, there are just four rough sleepers in South Tyneside

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While councils have a duty to house those classed as “statutory homeless”, the new act requires housing authorities to help all eligible applicants, rather than those with “priority need”.

This includes a duty to help people at risk of losing accommodation within 56 days and to offer help regardless of whether  they’re “intentionally homeless”.

Chairman of the people select committee, Coun John McCabe,introduced the report to cabinet and said recording the number of people who are either homeless or rough sleeping is “crucial”.

He added that there needs to be more people working and liaisinf  with partners and that suitable training be  put in place to help meet the demands of the new law.

Officially, there are just four rough sleepers in South Tyneside

South Tyneside Council’s leader, Coun Iain Malcolm, asked for clarification on a recommendation to recruit more landlords onto an “accredited scheme”.

The cabinet heard that the scheme aims to work with landlords to improve maintenance and management while making them aware of their obligations.

Findings from the people select committee summarised some of the issues and pressures in South Tyneside.

The  report stated “the problem of homelessness is much bigger than rough sleeping” with many families and single people living with relatives and friends or in temporary accommodation.

It said a low number of rough sleepers exist in the borough – reported as four at the time of the meeting – with the problem  often linked to mental health, employment and relationships.

Cabinet member for housing and transport, Allan West, welcomed the report and added that all residents need a home which “meets their needs and aspirations”.

Referencing comments from charity Shelter in the report about the terminology used to describe homelessness, council leader Iain Malcolm also explained the distinction.

He said that “people being homeless doesn’t mean they’re sleeping rough under some railway bridge” but often living with their parents or waiting for accommodation.

Cabinet member for children, young people and families, Joan Atkinson, also praised council officers who helped homeless people during recent spells of wintry weather.

“During that bad weather we were all concerned and members did get to these people and made sure they were safe,” she said.

Coun Malcolm added: “Our officers know who the rough sleepers are and there is communication with them on a regular basis.

“But they choose not to accept the support from the authority in terms of helping them to accept accommodation.”

He added that more accommodation needs to be built in South Tyneside, particularly to help young people “get onto the property ladder.”

The cabinet agreed to nine recommendations including establishing a forum for social and private landlords, building partnerships with third sector homelessness organisations and providing further training for council staff.

South Tyneside Council also aim to collaborate with other councils in Tyne and Wear to review the protocol around licensing and use of Homes in Multiple Occupation.

Other work includes leading a project with partners to adopt a common dataset for homeless clients in the borough to “ensure no one is lost to the system”.

South Tyneside Council has funding to meet the challenges of the Homelessness Reduction Act, the committee report states, but is also submitting a joint bid with Sunderland City Council to access further funding.

Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service