BOROUGH OF POOLE
COMMUNITY SUPPORT OVERVIEW GROUP
21 MARCH 2006
The meeting commenced at 7:00pm and finished at 10:05pm.
CouncillorMrs Hillman (Vice-Chairman)
CouncillorsMrs Dion, Mrs James, Gillard (substitute for Councillor Wretham), Matthews, Meachin, Rampton, Smith, Mrs Stribley (substitute for Councillor Ms Atkinson) and Wilson.
CouncillorsTrent and White.
Members of the public present: 0
1.APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Ms Atkinson and Wretham.
RESOLVED that the Minutes of the Meeting held on 10 January 2006, having been previously circulated, be taken as read, confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
3.DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
Councillors Bulteel and Mrs Hillman declared prejudicial interests in M.5 and left the Meeting during the debate and vote on this item.
Councillor Bulteel declared a personal interest in various items on the Agenda as an employee of the Leonard Cheshire Foundation.
4.PLANNED RESPITE SERVICE FOR OLDER PEOPLE WITH PHYSICAL DISABILITY AND DISEASE
The Chairman introduced Val Mitchell and Alison Pagram, Adult Social Services (Commissioning) who gave a short presentation on the background to and developments in the new Planned Respite Service available for carers of older people with physical disability and disease. Mr and Mrs Williams, service users, had also been invited to the meeting to share some experiences of the Respite Service.
The Meeting was advised that the commencement of this new Planned Respite Service in November 2005 had been in response to needs which had been identified by carers, the main one being expressed was for opportunities for carers to plan in advance their respite care breaks. Previously, when respite for carers was needed, Care Managers were required to “ring round” Homes in order to find vacancies. It had been recognised that the method of assessing respite need and allocation of services for carers would need to change to include an annual allocation to allow carers the opportunity to plan ahead. Accordingly, the Project was taken forward and the following implemented:
- Contracts to block purchase six beds were agreed with five providers which could be extended at a later date depending upon needs of other client groups.
- The post of Carers Respite and Support Assistant was confirmed and an appointment made.
- The booking procedures were set up following consultation with service providers, to enable a rapid response to requests for respite.
- A leaflet giving details and information about the scheme was produced
- Care Managers began to arrange annual allocations to carers as part of their annual reviews, or, initial assessment.
The first two rooms became available in early November and the cost to the Council of each room currently on the scheme was £410 per week. Where a service user qualified to pay a contribution, that amount was either £59.70 if they were one of a couple, or £85.65 if single.
The Meeting was advised that feedback from Care Managers had been encouraging, welcoming the ease of booking respite care. Carers and clients now had a choice of Homes for respite care which could be booked in advance. Furthermore, using a central booking service and arranging breaks had been simplified for both carers, clients and Care Managers. An evaluation would be made over a period of 12 months and further considerations for expanding the Scheme would also be considered.
Alison Pagram advised the Meeting of the Homes which were currently available at Florence Lodge, Richmond Wood and Primrose Lodge and she highlighted the facilities which were available which included leisure activities.
Mr Williams made a short presentation to the Overview Group on his experiences of using this new service. He stated that he cared for his elderly mother after retiring early from his full time employment. He had originally contacted Social Services to find out about respite care and had recently taken the opportunity to use the facilities which were now available. This service was very welcome and he had experienced no worries or pressures. There were many carers in the community ranging in ages from 17 to 80 plus and this service was well run and was welcomed by everyone. He thanked Adult Social Services for giving him and his wife the opportunity to have a break and be able to plan for the future. In response to a question he stated that reciprocal arrangements for “sitting services” between carers would not work as this would bring added pressures to carers to worry about other people. What was needed was a real break. He also drew attention to the opportunity this had given to his mother for social interaction with people her own age.
Members of the Overview Group asked various questions and congratulated everyone involved in the introduction of this new much needed service.
AGREED that the Report and Presentation on the Respite Service for older people with physical disability and disease be noted.
5.POOLE HOUSING PARTNERSHIP DELIVERY PLAN
Councillor Bulteel vacated the Chair. Councillor Rampton was in the Chair for this item.
The Head of Housing and Community Services presented a Report on the proposed Delivery Plan from Poole Housing Partnership Limited, the Management Fee with Poole Housing Partnership for the Financial Year 2006/7 and the Council’s Housing Revenue Account Capital Programme for 2006/7. A detailed presentation was given to the Overview Group by the Chief Executive and Management Team from Poole Housing Partnership.
The Meeting considered:
- Poole Housing Partnership Performance for 2005/6
- The Management Fee for 2006/7 which had been suggested for £7,493,000 funded from within the Housing Revenue Account, as reported to Members as part of the Housing Revenue Account Budget Setting in February 2005. Attached to the Report were performance targets proposed by Poole Housing Partnership for the Financial Year 2006/7.
- Housing Revenue Account Capital Programme 2006/7 – Members considered details of the Proposed Capital Schemes together with the estimated programmed expenditure and the report showed how the programme was proposed to be financed. In 2006/7 the proposed investment in the Council’s Housing Stock totalled £15,623,000.
The Head of Housing and Community Services also submitted details of the proposed Decent Homes Programme for 2007/8. It was proposed that Poole Housing Partnership be requested to run the building cost model which included an assessment of all Capital Investment required as well as the Housing Revenue Account Business Plan which established the parameters for funding so as to report back to Members later in this calendar year with the full Capital Programmes for each year.
The Presentation by the Chief Executive, Poole Housing Partnership, identified some key tasks for 2006/7 and the proposed Decent Homes Programme which meant that there would be a challenging year ahead, focusing on:
- Building up the Decent Homes Team
- Developing a focus on Strong Sustainable Communities
- Positive trends in staff and resident satisfaction
- Contributing to significant Gershon savings
- Performance and Service Improvements
- Information Technology Developments, including PHP website
- Continuing with investment
- Consideration of over 40 estate improvement schemes.
Members raised the following issues:
- The suggestion of an open day Poole Housing Partnership offices by Members was welcomed.
- The work by Donna Saunders in conjunction with the Police and Church at Skinner Street was welcomed and she was congratulated for these recent initiatives.
- The improvement by providing 700 new kitchens was an excellent achievement.
- Good joint working was taking place but communication with Members was vital and there were opportunities to be progressive and supportive.
The Chief Executive, Poole Housing Partnership Ltd (PHP), responded to various points by stating that the Decent Homes Programme was in place until 2010 and a decision would have to be made after that time on any ongoing investment in the Stock. The Government had promised new freedoms and flexibilities in the future but firm decisions had not been made to date.
He stated that there was nothing to stop Poole Housing Partnership building properties but to date the financing of this opportunity had not been achievable and it was always easier for a Registered Social Landlord to undertake this type of work. Things were changing and any new ideas would be shared with Members in future. The focus at the present time was on Sustainable Communities and Decent Homes. Structures were already in place with Residents’ Groups so that they were involved in any initiatives and it was hoped that Registered Social Landlords and Housing Associations would also be involved with local issues.
The Portfolio Holder for Housing Areas thanked the Chief Executive of Poole Housing Partnership and his Management Team for a very interesting and informative presentation. He also thanked Members for their input in the debate. He welcomed the idea of an Open Day at Poole Housing Partnership for Members of the Council.
(i)this Overview Group recommends to Cabinet:
(a)The target set out as part of the Poole Housing Partnership Delivery Plan (Appendix A of the report attached to the Agenda papers) and the associated Management Fee be paid to Poole Housing Partnership in 2006/7 of £7,493,000 gross (£6,978,000 net);
(b)the Housing Revenue Account Capital Programme for 2006/7 (Appendix B of the Report), which totals £15,623,000 and the Decent Homes Programme for 2007/8,which totals £8,006,000; and
(ii)Cabinet be asked to note that a further Report will be presented later in the year to establish the detailed Housing Revenue Account Capital Programme for subsequent years and to review the balance available from the 2006/7 Capital Programme.
(Councillor Bulteel and Mrs Hillman were not present for the vote on this item).
6.HOME CHOICE AND ALLOCATIONS POLICY REVIEW
The Head of Housing and Community Services submitted a Report updating Members of the Overview Group following an Annual Review of Home Choice and to make recommendations following a review of the current Allocations Policy. He stated that the Community Support Overview Group and subsequently Cabinet, had approved the implementation of a new Allocations Policy and the implementation of Home Choice across the Borough in 2003 as a result of a comprehensive review of the allocations system. The points system was revoked and date order/priority card prioritisation had been implemented in December 2003. A choice based letting scheme, known as Home Choice, was reviewed and extended across the Borough in February 2004.
The Meeting was advised of the application process by the Priority Panel which was set up to consider cases where medical or social priority should be awarded. The Meeting was advised that a system of banding was also implemented with the Date Order Policy. Applicants were banded into red, amber or green bands according to their priority on the list, determined by the date of their application or through being awarded a priority card. One of the objectives of the Priority Panel and priority status system was to reduce the number of applicants awarded priority for immediate rehousing, which was unrealistic and status which applicants often maintained for, in some cases, a number of years. Since the priority status system was introduced, an average of seven per month were awarded and all for a fixed time limit. This ensured that more allocations were available to those on the date order system and that a more robust system of assessment was being applied.
The Head of Housing and Community Services referred to the Home Choice (Allocations Service) which was implemented in February 2004. Properties were advertised weekly on notice boards in the Civic Centre Housing Reception, in libraries around the Borough, on a dedicated Home Choice phone line and on the Borough’s website. In order to maintain a level of applicant involvement in the scheme, an annual review was undertaken, the aims of which were to consult with service users and make recommendations for the future of the scheme as a result of this feedback. Previous surveys had established that the advertising method used for the Home Choice were sufficient, but could be improved upon. As a result of this, feedback from applicants actions were being taken to make improvements, such as I.T. which would mean that the service was available on the web. Further consideration would be given to new and cost effective methods of advertising properties through the scheme. However, it was noted that the phone line was currently the most popular advertising method with 21,000 calls to date.
In conclusion, the Head of Housing and Community Services stated that:
- The date order system accompanied by priority cards allowed a far more simplistic and effective system.
- There was an improved service for those on the Housing Register.
- There was better information available to applicants
- More support and signposting was provided
- There were more effective methods of assessing priority need
- The Scheme prevented homelessness
- There were efficiency savings
- The Scheme put Poole in the spotlight.
As a result, there were various Policy changes recommended as a result of the Allocations Policy Review and these were detailed in the report submitted to the Overview Group and the main recommendations were:
- The criteria for consideration for Sheltered Housing accommodation would be amended to 60 years of age.
- A quota of 10 households per year from outside the Borough, would be made offers of accommodation
- There should be no restriction to the allocation of sheltered accommodation to people from outside the Borough, but Poole residents were always given first priority. This might change following the Corporate Review which was analysing the needs of Older People in relation to housing support services.
- The Housing Related Debt Policy should be revoked and replaced with the following:
“Allocations to applicants who have a history of rent arrears with any Landlord, of over £1,000, may not be considered for an allocation. Each case will be considered in accordance with Section 160A of the Housing Act 1996 (as amended by the Homelessness Act 2002) and the prevailing Code of Guidance)”.
- The Priority Status and Refusal of Offers Policy would be amended to show that when a priority status applicant refused two offers of accommodation within their priority status time limit, their priority card would be removed in order that others could be considered. It was also recommended that the Refusals Policy in respect of applicants for sheltered accommodation would be relaxed so that applicants who refused four offers of accommodation in any twelve month period were suspended for twelve months.
- Currently owner/occupiers who applied to the Housing Register had their equity and savings assessed. Those who had equity or savings which equated to 75% or more of the cost of purchasing another property which was suitable to their needs, had been offered the opportunity to be rehoused and sell or lease their property. It was proposed to end this scheme.
- It was recommended that one property be allocated each year to those who were being considered by Children and Families Services for Fostering and/or Adoption, and for whom rehousing was the final hurdle.
- Reciprocal arrangements would be considered by the Priority Panel.
- The allocation of staff tenancies was not currently covered by the Policy and it was proposed that this be amended so that where properties at Bob Hann House were specifically made available for members of staff coming in from outside the Borough to take up employment with the Council, that these should only be let to Officers who required a tenancy as a requirement of the job, such as caretakers and house managers.
- It is necessary to formalise the practice of using its own accommodation in order to accommodate homeless families on a temporary basis and whilst the need to do so occurred on an exceptional basis, it was felt necessary to formalise this practice to approve the inclusion of it within the Allocations Policy.
- It was proposed that applicants re-register every six months and the onus would be on the applicant to report any changes in circumstances and to ask to be re-registered.
The following points were raised:
The Policy Director reassured Members that with regard to concern on the change in Policy on making one property available to those who were being considered for Adoption and/or Fostering it was unlikely that anyone would take steps to try this to jump the queue there was a strict and detailed vetting process before anyone was accepted as a Foster or Adoptive Parent.
The Head of Housing and Community Services took on board the comments which had been made about dealing with vulnerable people and he emphasised that each case was looked at sympathetically by the review process and agreed that it was essential for everyone to know how the system worked to avoid any issues with vulnerable people.