Reducing the number of homeless families in bed and breakfast - transforming the Housing Service
Reducing the number of homeless families in bed and breakfast - transforming the Housing Service

expected savings in 2013/14

Like all local authorities, East Cambridgeshire District Council has seen an increase in homelessness over the last two years, but with bed and breakfast usage increasing apace and over 20 families in bed and breakfast, many for several months, a review of temporary accommodation was called for.

The Authority decided that it was appropriate to commission a full review to ensure that the housing service was operating efficiently; that spend on bed and breakfast was brought back in line with budget; and that the service was providing a robust homelessness service fit for the future.

Trish Reed, a Housing Talent Bank Associate with extensive experience in delivering homelessness services over 20 years was brought in to carry out the review.

A full review of temporary accommodation was carried out and a comprehensive report produced making a number of recommendations. These included:

  • the introduction of recharging policies for both B&B and removals and storage,
  • the reopening of a homeless hostel closed three years earlier and lying vacant,
  • the refurbishment and use of a County Council property that had been empty for ten years for additional hostel accommodation
  • the granting (subject to a legal charge) of financial support to both the housing association and County Council towards the capital costs of both projects making them viable.
  • A review of homelessness prevention tools i.e. rent deposit scheme, private sector leasing scheme.

The associate was kept on for two days a week following the Review to deliver these projects and to oversee a re-structure of the staff team. This specialist advice was crucial to reviewing the skill sets within the team, developing options for the future and supporting senior management through the recruitment of two new senior housing officers. Providing this dedicated resource gave the authority the opportunity to take a step back and consider the longer-term future of the service. The Associate also developed a new Homelessness Strategy re-focussing on the prevention of homelessness.

Use of bed and breakfast has dropped significantly as a result of this placement, with savings of at least £250k expected in 2013/14. The hostel reopened in June providing an additional six units of accommodation, leaving only two households in B&B at the end of June.