Committee discusses Council's work to address homelessness
13th August 2020
Members of The Highland Council's Housing and Property Committee have had the chance to discuss the progress made to implement a Rapid Rehousing Transition Plan aimed at tackling homelessness.
In November 2018 the Scottish Government and COSLA published the "Ending Homelessness Together" Action Plan which included the recommendation that all local authorities produce Rapid Rehousing Transition Plans to document how they would tackle homelessness. The Council's Plan on eliminating homelessness was submitted to the Scottish Government in April 2019.
The update presented today confirmed that Scottish Government funding has been used to recruit 3 specialist housing officers to work with homeless applicants who have been in temporary accommodation the longest or have the most complex needs. The new postholders are now in place.
The Highland Drug and Alcohol Partnership received separate funding and have entered into a partnership with the Council and NHS Highland to develop a Housing First project in the Inner Moray Firth area focused on clients who are homeless or at risk of homelessness due to harmful and significant drug and /or alcohol use. A new project office with a team of 3 has been set up in the Hilton area of Inverness. The first Housing First tenancy in Highland is now in place providing accommodation for 4 service users.
As part of the Rapid Rehousing Plan it was agreed that the Council would trial the use of shared temporary accommodation for single homeless people. To date 20 shared properties have been set up in Inverness and Ross and Cromarty to accommodate 40 clients. Councillors were advised that the model has proved effective and has been popular with the service users.
In order to minimise the use of bed-and-breakfast type accommodation, the council has also been increasing its stock of self-contained temporary accommodation primarily for homeless households with children. In May 2018 there were 237 suitable units and in May this year the figure had risen to 387.
Chair of the Committee, Cllr Ben Thompson said: "The current changes to homeless legislation are about moving the system away from personal assessment against legal tests to a more client-focused service. It has been good to discuss the progress made to move forward with this new way of dealing with homelessness as well as to look in more detail about the implications."
Addressing homelessness is a priority for the council. An emergency staff working group is meeting weekly to review and address the challenges that the council is currently facing in providing temporary accommodation.
Cllr Thompson added: “The Council is experiencing very significant pressures in relation to homelessness. The service is seeing increasing demand in case numbers, is faced with housing demand far exceeding available supply and has been placed under additional stress as a result of Covid-19. As the transition plans continue moving forward we will be monitoring all the new measures and following up any necessary actions that arise.”
Highland Councillors have commended the Council's ongoing efforts to reduce carbon consumption over the past year. Members have welcomed the information that the Council has saved over 6,000 tonnes of carbon this year.
Virtual education in Highland - Supportive, Interactive, Engaging. The Highland Council can support and deliver education to any pupils who are asked to self-isolate by the Health Protection Team, in all of our 203 schools across the region.
Young people at school are the winners as a result of discussions between High Life Highland and The Highland Council that will see the Charity's staff phased back into schools after the October break. Speaking about the arrangement, High Life Highland Chairman, Ian Ross said, "I am delighted that once again our partnership working arrangements with colleagues in The Highland Council mean that High Life Highland staff will be able to recommence their work with young people during the school day and within school buildings.
The Highland Council is calling on the UK Government to help resolve the inequity of fuel poverty experienced in the Highlands of Scotland where people pay more for fuel and energy than other regions in the UK. Leader of The Highland Council, Cllr Margaret Davidson has written to the UK Government's Minister of State (Minister for Business, Energy and Clean Growth) The Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP calling on the government to replace the current electricity distribution system with one that replicates that of gas and telecoms and share the cost of energy distribution equally across the UK.
To mark Scotland's Climate Week for 2020, which runs from today until the 20th September, The Highland Council has organised a range of virtual events to share information and seek views from Highland residents and Council employees on climate related topics. Whilst the circumstances for Climate Week 2020 are very different to previous years, it still provides an important opportunity for organisations and communities to celebrate and showcase what they are doing to tackle climate change.
Highland residents are being warned that letters claiming they have won a share of £425,000 in a ‘postcode lottery' is a scam. The letters appear to be targeting the Skye area but are likely to be sent to various addresses across the Highland area.
Fiona Malcolm, has been appointed by The Highland Council as Interim Executive Chief Officer with immediate effect for Health and Social Care, pending recruitment of the permanent ECO post which is currently taking place. A qualified solicitor, Fiona has worked within the legislative and policy frameworks in place for both children's care and adult social care since joining The Highland Council in 2001.
Communities in The Highland Council area are to benefit from Crown Estates funding to be disbursed by the local authority. Councillors have agreed a funding distribution model to enable the disbursement of over £3million Crown Estates funds across the region.
Council today agreed an urgent motion by Cllrs Margaret Davidson, Andrew Jarvie, Alasdair Christie and Jimmy Gray with a call for more detailed local information sharing on Covid-19 for members in local government. The motion is as follows: "Throughout the pandemic we have received information on national and Highland wide numbers infected with Covid 19.
At the meeting on 9 September 2020 of the Council's Housing and Property Committee, Officers confirmed that house building targets will be met despite lockdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Chair of the committee, Cllr Ben Thompson, said: "I am delighted that we are able to continue to meet our targets for the Council house building programme.