CASE STUDY: South-West Regional Scrutiny Network: Case Study (March 2023) sent by Howard Bassett – Exeter Council
Following a request put forward by a Councillor, in June 2022 the City Council established a cross party Homelessness Task and Finish Working Group, chaired by the Deputy Chair of the parent Customer Focus Scrutiny Committee, to examine the impact of any increase in homelessness in Exeter as a result of benefit cuts and increases in the cost of living. At the same time, the City Council was drafting its Homelessness Strategy in preparation for consultation later in the year.
The Group examined the Exeter context of City Council operational practices and policies, its partnership work with the other providers and the Council’s new proposed Homelessness Strategy priorities and how it will assist the City Council in improving its service provision for the homeless.
Reducing homelessness is central to the Council’s key corporate strategic priority of “Housing and Building Great Neighbourhoods and Communities” through the tackling of social inequality and maximising homelessness preventions and reliefs.
As well as a call for public views on the issues, including those who had experienced homelessness, two sessions were held with witnesses. These included Shelter, Exeter Citizens Advice and three local bodies supporting the Homeless in Exeter – Julian House, St. Petrock’s and Co Lab. The County Council also contributed through a written statement with the City Council’s Service Lead Housing Needs and Homelessness in attendance at the meetings to provide the City Council context.
The views expressed by outside bodies concerned with Homelessness indicated that they anticipate increased numbers seeking homelessness support from those currently housed. In regard to street attached, rough sleepers and the plight of the single young homeless the data also indicating that the demand on services has and is increasing. Clearly, there is likely to be an increased demand placed upon the City Council in regard to its homelessness provision.
The wide ranging recommendations of the Task and Finish Working Group to the Committee fell into two groupings; firstly those to external bodies and secondly those relating to Exeter City Council responsibilities and these were presented to the Committee on 2 February 2023. The Portfolio Holder for Communities and Prevention of Homelessness attended a number of the sessions including when the Group concluded its deliberations and put forward its recommendations. The Committee adopted the report on 2 February for consideration of the recommendations by Council on 21 February 2023.
A report back on progress to the Scrutiny Committee will be made in six months.
The report to the Scrutiny Committee on 2 February 2023 and the report on the Homelessness Strategy to Executive on 7 February 2023 together with the respective minutes can be accessed by the links below.
Customer Focus Scrutiny Committee and Executive
Councillor Martin Pearce Councillor Michael Mitchell
Portfolio Holder for Communities and Chair Homelessness Task and
Homelessness Prevention Finish Working Group