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Agenda item


To provide an overview and understanding of the Council’s response to Covid-19, in respect of homelessness.


Ms Vikki Piper, Acting Head of Housing advised that a multi-agency approach had been taken to ensuring that homeless people were housed and safe during the crisis. Services had been rapidly stepped up in order to provide practical homeless support. There were currently 129 individuals in temporary accommodation which had reduced from approximately 200 during the busiest period. There were 33 people housed within six bed and breakfasts in the town. She added that there were currently two rough sleepers, both of whom were new rough sleepers and had not been supported through the pandemic. However, the numbers in all cases changed every day.


There were a number of ongoing issues for consideration including that the ban on evictions would soon be removed, the changes required when entering phase two of the pandemic and the detail of the Government funding recently announced. With regard to the latter, it was noted that the funding was focussed on provision of short term accommodation when in Blackpool it would be preferable to focus on long term funding to provide stable homes and communities.


Ms Piper cited the recent Office of National Statistics publication into the number of homeless deaths of covid during the pandemic and noted that there had been 16 nationwide, three in the north west of England. It was important to learn from experiences during the pandemic and ensure the positives could be continued moving forward.


In response to questions, Ms Piper clarified that there had been 885 approaches for advice and assistance. Of these, there were approximately 400 cases requiring provision of accommodation and 25 had been families/individuals who had been returned to their own local authority area. There had been a smaller number of those presenting from outside of the area during the pandemic, partly due to the lockdown arrangements in place and hotels being closed preventing people from arriving with nowhere to stay.


Members noted that there had been difficulties in ensuring social distancing amongst homeless residents temporarily accommodated in bed and breakfasts and queried why the virus had not spread further amongst this community. Dr Arif Rajpura, Director of Public Health advised that the virus had particularly discriminated against those aged over 70. There had been some community spread within Blackpool, however, community transmission had declined substantially in the town. There could be a degree of luck in the minimal transfer in the homeless population, however, Dr Rajpura also highlighted that measures had been put in place to protect the most vulnerable including isolating those with symptoms. He added that relationships with homeless residents had been developed quickly and it was important to not return to the same service provision and interaction prior to the pandemic. A long term plan was required to make sure the right support was in place moving forward.


The Committee queried the overall cost of the provision and Ms Piper estimated it to be approximately £300,000 to date.


Members recognised the excellent partnership work and queried whether anything would be done differently if faced with the same situation in the future. The importance of co-production was also highlighted. Ms Piper advised that it would have been preferable to not use bed and breakfasts as temporary accommodation. She also highlighted that views had been sought regarding services via a questionnaire. However, Members felt that the use of a questionnaire was not the same as co-production and involvement in decision making and queried if further measures could be put in place. Ms Piper advised that the incredibly short notice for accommodating all homeless people did not allow for consultation or co-production on this occasion, but consideration could be given to identifying options for co-production and liaising with the lived experience team where the Council was commissioning longer term projects or services.


The Committee went on to consider the background and demographic of people who had become homeless and queried whether information gathered could be used to develop a profile and an understanding of who they were in order to assist in the prevention of homelessness in the future. In response, Ms Piper advised that some information was available, noting that the vast majority were single people, mostly male, aged between 30 and 40 years old and that a breakdown of demographics could be provided.

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