Social Work and Housing Committee update 03/11/11
8th November 2011
Members of the Social Work and Housing Committee met recently (Thursday, November 3) to discuss items including the council’s programme of house building; fuel poverty; homelessness; housing policy and the future integration of health and social care.
New house building update
Members welcomed and congratulated the council on its continued programme of new council housing developments.
Members heard that over the last two years a total investment of almost £20million had been made for the development of 165 houses over four phases. This included £4.3million received from Scottish Government funding.
Councillors noted progress and Director of Housing and Social Work Ritchie Johnson advised that the council would continue to look at how best to work in partnership to develop more affordable housing in future.
Fuel poverty in Aberdeenshire declining but more work to do
A report on fuel poverty was provided to councillors and set out the council’s actions to meet the Scottish Government’s target to eradicate fuel poverty by 2016. Further reports will be presented to committee in December.
Key findings from the Scottish House Condition Survey show that fuel poverty across Aberdeenshire has decreased slightly in the last year from 33% to 31% of households.
Across Scotland, fuel poverty is increasing and members were advised that although Aberdeenshire is performing well, the authority is committed to doing more in future as fuel costs are set to rise.
Members heard that the installation of energy efficiency measures has had a positive impact on fuel poverty in Aberdeenshire in both council homes and the private sector.
Aberdeenshire Council has successfully submitted applications for funding from the Scottish Government’s Home Insulation Scheme and the Universal Home Insulation Scheme.
An additional £620,000 has been awarded in 2011/2012 which will result in approximately 20,000 private sector homes in Buchan and Banff & Buchan being given the opportunity to have free loft and/or cavity wall insulation.
The service is also to create a new post, within existing resources, to deliver the fuel poverty action plan.
Council on track to meet homelessness targets
The committee was advised that a huge range of actions were taking place in Aberdeenshire to meet the 2012 target set by Scottish Government to prioritise housing for those in need.
Statistics show that homelessness presentations in Aberdeenshire have increased over the last two years but in Scotland as a whole have decreased.
Councillors heard that the council is working to reduce reliance on bed and breakfast temporary accommodation and that the changes to the housing allocation policy would also help meet targets.
In terms of the Homelessness 2012 target (where 100% of those assessed as homeless will be given priority need), 89.6% of applicants were assessed as
homeless in Aberdeenshire last year and compared favourably with a national average of 88% (when considered against the 100% target).
The most common causes of homelessness are household disputes and the council is looking to develop a specialist homelessness prevention team which will include a mediation service to help combat these issues.
Actions also include providing housing support to vulnerable people in social or private housing, preventing homelessness through directing people to advice and also work to include education on housing in the school curriculum. The service is also working with partners to share best practice.
Director of Housing and Social Work Ritchie Johnson said: “It is right to keep pressure up. While we are on target there are issues that will impact next year and we are working on a range of things.
“We will come back to committee in December and February with progress and we are keen to see what happens elsewhere and learn from other authorities.”
Cllr Ron McKail welcomed the report and asked why homelessness was increasing in Aberdeenshire.
Head of Housing Douglas Edwardson advised that many factors contributed such as the oil and gas economy and high house prices, with Aberdeenshire being one of the most pressured housing markets in Scotland ,and assured members homelessness is a priority.
“We will meet targets, we must bring the homelessness figure down and we have being doing this, despite pressures,” he said.
Cllr Brian Topping said he also welcomed and agreed with the report and had confidence in staff within housing offices he said who were supporting people who are homeless.
Councillors approved changes to the housing policy report to make the allocation system fairer including combining areas to create larger letting areas and reducing the number of areas applicants can select from five to two.
The report was presented to all six area committees with responses and amendments made including to the grouping of settlements to reflect local need and members were advised feedback would be provided on the impact of changes.
Head of Housing Douglas Edwardson advised members the changes were linked to the council’s homelessness agenda and common housing register (in terms of new areas) as well as ensuring the council is on par with housing associations.
Members had concerns over issues raised at area committee as well as the phrase ‘reasonable offer’ and asked the chair to consider taking a progress report to a future committee meeting in six-months time.
Integration of health and social care and what this means for Aberdeenshire
Councillors were informed of recent developments in relation to the Scottish Government’s policy intent to achieve greater integration between health and social care services in Scotland.
Members were advised of how this might affect Aberdeenshire with implications for community health partnerships and community planning.
An announcement is due from Scottish Government in December and a further report will be presented to the Social Work and Housing Committee following this.
Members had concerns over the meaning of ‘integration’ and welcomed the early report agreeing to receive regular updates.
Director of Housing and Social Work Ritchie Johnson advised that reports would be presented to committee and workshops would also be undertaken with Community Health Partnerships to look at what’s meant by integration.
Other items included:
• A report on the service’s performance indicators for quarter 2
• Progress towards meeting the Scottish Quality Housing Standard
• A response to the Scottish Housing Regulator Consultation
• An Audit Scotland Report on Transport for Health and Social Care
• The implementation of Community Payback Orders
• An annual report from the Northern Community Justice Authority.
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