To outline the cold weather provisions for rough sleepers and to provide an update on the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP).
Ellie Eghtedar, Interim Head of Housing attended and provided Panel Members with an introduction to the cold weather provisions and the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) within Bracknell Forest. In addition to the presentation, the Panel were advised that:
· There were 5 new agencies that had taken part in the estimated rough sleeper count
· The estimated count had taken place on the night of 14 Nov 2018 to the morning of 15 Nov 2018.
· The estimated rough sleeper count was used to devise the SWEP.
· The rough sleeper count within Bracknell Forest was estimated at 19 people.
· Extra funding had been secured from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government of £35,000 to provide the cold weather fund.
· What does it look like?
· The SWEP was not a statutory requirement. Best practice was that SWEP would be activated by a weather forecast predicting 3 consecutive nights or more of temperatures below zero degrees Celsius
· Bracknell Forest SWEP had enhanced this recommendation and was activated by a weather forecast predicting 2 consecutive nights or more of temperatures below zero degrees Celsius.
· Notifications were sent out to all agencies involved when SWEP was activated so they could refer rough sleepers to the emergency duty service or the welfare and housing team to provide accommodation.
· The categorisation of a person who was a rough sleeper did not include those who were ‘sofa surfing’.
· SWEP was provided to persons regardless of priority need and persons did not need to be eligible.
· The Homelessness Reduction Act meant those who needed assistance were identified earlier and personalised housing plans could be developed for those who met the threshold.
· There was closer working with partners which had meant early identification of support needs for people and vulnerabilities could be identified a lot sooner.
· The Homelessness Reduction Act had introduced a legal threshold for personalised housing plans to those threatened with homelessness or already homeless.
· The enhancement of SWEP in Bracknell in 2018/19 meant that those sleeping rough did not need to rely on the night shelter as the only provision for SWEP, however SWEP was not a statutory requirement.
· If an individual’s support needs were assessed as high, individual accommodation could be provided.
· A sustainability plan was also identified for those who were being helped.
· A Specialist Housing Officer was being recruited to support the sustainability plan and would be in post February 2019.
· Under the sustainability plan, a Welfare and Housing Case Worker or Specialist Housing Officer made contact with those in the night shelter or B&B accommodation to secure more permanent accommodation and support.
· They worked closely with the police, Community Mental Health Team and Drugs, Alcohol and Addiction Team (DAAT).
· They advised partners of the legislative framework.
In response to questions from Members, Ellie Eghtedar, Interim Head of Housing advised that:
· The rough sleeper count of 19 was an estimate made on one day and only a snapshot.
· A personalised housing plan was done for each person who approached the Council directly or that was owed a prevention duty or a relief duty under the new Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.
· A risk assessment was done for each individual who approached or was referred for accommodation when SWEP was activated and it was established the person was ‘sleeping rough.’
· SWEP had been activated twice since December 2018.
· 12 people had been placed in accommodation under SWEP and all 12 had risk assessments completed.
· The rough sleeper count of 19 done on 14/15 November 2018 was an estimate which had been done with partner agencies and partner local authorities to try to avoid double counting.
· The 12 individuals were referred every time SWEP was activated.
· There was a duty on public bodies such as community mental health team and prisons, to refer which came in to force on 01 October 2018, an update on which had been provided to Members but that did not extend to/between local authorities.
· Bracknell Forest had begun to work with neighbouring boroughs, but that was not in the Act.
· SWEP was an emergency protocol. If cases were picked up at the relief stage the close relationship/local connection element meant that case would be referred back to their ‘home’ authority.
· All Local Authorities had an agenda to eradicate rough sleeping by 2027.
· Bracknell Forest did not just rely on the night shelter. Only 3 people went into the night shelter of their own accord before SWEP was activated.
· The night Shelter ran from December to March.
· Bracknell Forest had placed people in funded self- contained accommodation and also provided transport for individuals to access the accommodation.
· Unknown rough sleepers were being engaged with to produce a sustainability plan.
· As part of SWEP, discretion could be used to provide provision for daytime needs for rough sleepers and extended and individual risk assessment plans could be provided.
Ellie Eghtedar, Interim Head of Housing advised the Panel that:
· She had a close relationship with Pilgrim Hearts Trust who provided tickets to partner agencies.
· The night shelter accepted everyone who approached them and was not governed by the Local Authority.
· A risk assessment was done before anyone was referred. If they were not able to share amenities, or a risk to others, they were placed into self- contained accommodation.
· The Homeless Prevention funding provided any necessary help to the night shelter. The night shelter was not something that was regularly monitored. There was a dotted line referral to the night shelter.
· The night shelter did not allow dogs.
· If SWEP was activated, it was assessed if the dog was part of the household and the Council would make provisions for the dog assessed on a case by case basis. Owning a dog should not stop the provision of SWEP. The Council would do their best to find accommodation to allow them to stay with their dog and could not promise that the night shelter would have them.
· The night shelter work alone.
· A rough sleeper could either accept or refuse an offer of accommodation as it could be provided further way from Bracknell Forest.
The Chairman gave thanks to Ellie Eghtedar, Interim Head of Housing for attending and updating the Panel.