Agenda and draft minutes
Venue: Freemen's Room - Oxford Town Hall. View directions
Contact: Stefan Robinson
Note: Please note that this meeting has moved from the Old Library to the Freemen's Room
Welcome and introductions
Welcome from the Chair and brief round table introductions.
The Chair welcomed guests to the meeting. She explained that the purpose of the No Local Connection Review was to improve outcomes for people who were homeless and had no local connection to Oxford. The purpose of this meeting was to hear from external guests about ways to improve the Council’s homelessness policies, and wider homelessness support function. The Chair invited all present to introduce themselves.
Apologies for absence
To receive any apologies for absence.
Apologies were sent on behalf of David Portway, ACT Managing director, who was substituted by Richard, ACT Housing Support Officer.
Declarations of interest
To consider any declarations of interest.
There were no declarations of interest.
As background information, the meeting has also been provided with a research report from the Scrutiny Officer which summarises how various local authorities apply local connection criteria to their homelessness support services. Only members of the Review Group will have access to appendix 1, as this contains information that is exempt from publication under paragraphs 2 and 3 of Part 1, Section 12A, of the Local Government Act 1972.
Guests will be invited to make any opening statements if they wish. The meeting will then move to questions from the Review Group and open discussion. As of 9 August, confirmed guests include:
· Matthew Downie - Crisis National Director of Policy and External Affairs
· Kate Cocker - Crisis Oxford Skylight Director
· David Portway - ACT! Managing Director
· Rob Rogers - ACT! Outreach Team Leader
· Dr James Porter, GP - Luther Street Medical Centre
Key questions and themes may include:
a) What are Luther St, Crisis and ACTs services’ relationships to the local connection rules? Is any support limited to those with a local connection?
b) What proportion of the people you support do not have a local connection?
c) What would be the impact of opening larger parts of the pathway/creating new accommodation provision for those without local connection? Are there opportunities to save money whilst expanding services?
d) What are the best and worst examples from elsewhere of service provision for those without a local connection?
e) What are the barriers to reconnecting people with an area where they have a local connection?
f) The Council currently makes exemptions to the local connection policy for: care leavers, those at risk of violence, those protected under a military covenant, those with no connection to any other area, and those with a clear connection to the County. Are there any other groups that you think should be added to the exemptions list?
g) A recent Crisis report recommended scrapping or abolishing local connection criteria (see How to end homelessness in Great Britain (Crisis) report p.194 and p.389). The European Observatory on Homelessness has made a similar suggestion. How would an alternative policy look in practice, taking account of the local government finance envelope?
h) What is the role of local GP surgeries in supporting rough sleepers?
i) How would you characterise the level of vulnerability and health risks experienced among rough sleepers?
j) What more could the Council do to support local health providers in helping rough sleepers?
k) How effective and accurate do you think central government guidance is on counting and collecting data on rough sleepers?
l) The ‘small’ ways the current system could adapt to make things better.
m) What is the ACT Housing model, and Oxford Winter Shelter housing model?
n) Examples where rough sleepers have been let down by the system.
o) Would you be able to help connect us with people who have experience of rough sleeping, for the benefit of our research?
Dave Scholes, Housing Strategy and Needs Manager, explained that the Sit-up Service and the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) provided support for people with and without a local connection. There were different types of local connection, including; city connection, county connection, pathway connection and various exemptions such as for those at risk of violence, former armed services personnel, and those with no local connection to any area. It was confirmed that the Council used the statutory definition of local connection as a basis for determining access to the Housing Register.
In reviewing the local connection research report, which summarised responses from 14 local authorities concerning their local connection policies, the Housing Strategy and Needs Manager highlighted that whilst many championed discretion in applying local connection criteria, none were forthcoming with written policies. He also drew attention to the homeless ‘magnet’ effect referenced within the report, which some authorities said was more related to pull-factors such as footfall, begging opportunities and the diversity of support services, rather than council policies. It was confirmed that people in Oxford would need to engage with the Sit-up Service in order to access support to reconnect to another local authority area.
Matthew Downie, Director of Policy and External Affairs at Crisis, explained that whilst some authorities appear to champion discretion and say they do not apply a local connection, this was only at the very first point of contact. The subsequent priority would always be to reconnect those people to another area. To his knowledge, there were no local authorities that completely dis-applied local connection criteria for a full support pathway.
In response to questions about rates of successful reconnections made to other authorities, Mr Downie said the data was weak in relation to reconnection outcomes. He highlighted some key challenges across local authorities nationally, including:
· People were often given one way tickets by local authorities, rather than a support package for reconnecting with services.
· If people turned down a reconnection offer, they were often considered to have ‘burnt their bridges’ and would be refused further support.
· Reconnections did not take account of peoples social and support networks.
· There were often tensions between local authorities in receiving reconnections, and local authority accountability and responsibility was often lost through this process.
· There was a lack of choice, agency and assistance in the reconnection process.
· Money was sometimes spent on creating and maintaining barriers to accessing support.
Mr Downie said these challenges were policy choices to manage resources which lacked focus on human outcomes. The Review Group remarked that many of these challenges were reflective of national migration policies.
The Chair asked about the work of Luther Street Medical Centre. Dr James Porter explained that the Medical Centre supported people experiencing homelessness. The Surgery did not keep details of whether people had a local connection to the area as it would not impact on the level of care given. No one would be excluded from healthcare on the grounds that they did not have a local connection. ... view the full minutes text for item 12.
To note the minutes of the previous meeting held on 19 July 2018.
The minutes of the previous meeting held on 19 July 2018 were noted by the Review Group.
Dates of future meetings
To note the Review Group’s next meeting dates, commencing at 5pm:
· 4 September 2018 (external guests)
· 2 October 2018 (forming draft conclusions and recommendations)
Richard Howlett explained that there may be an opportunity to speak with people experiencing homelessness at the Gatehouse on 17 September 2018, but this was still subject to further confirmation. The Review Group agreed to proceed with the meeting, noting that some members were not available on that date. The Scrutiny Officer would contact various organisations to help refer people to this meeting, but numbers may have to be limited.
The Review Group noted the meeting dates as follows:
· 4 September 2018
· 17 September 2018 (to be confirmed)
· 2 October 2018
The Scrutiny Officer advised that he intended to draft the Review Group’s report by 17 October, following the final meeting on 2 October 2018.
The Review Group discussed and commented on the Council’s approach to media management of homelessness issues, suggesting the Council should be more proactive and more honest and open about the challenges in Oxford.
Any other business
To consider any other business.
The Review Group agreed:
· To seek to arrange a meeting with Croydon Council to learn about their homelessness support services, as recommended by Mr Downie.
· To review the Council’s Homelessness Communication Plan.
· To request that Dave Lansley, Communications Officer, carries out work to promote the work of the Review Group on social media. This should reflect the scale of the homelessness issue and the reality of the lived experience
Reports Containing Confidential or Exempt information
Please note that Appendix 1 of item 4 is exempt from publication under paragraphs 2 and 3 of Part 1, Section 12A, of the Local Government Act 1972. If the Review Group wishes to exclude the press and the public from the meeting during consideration of this item, it will be necessary to pass a resolution to that effect.