Housing and Strategic Planning Cabinet Member – minutes – 22 December 2009

48 (12) BENEFITS SECTION – QUARTERLY PERFORMANCE MONITORING – The Service Director Finance submitted a report informing the Cabinet Member of the current performance of the benefits service and action being taken on the Key Lines of Enquiry action plan.

The current economic situation was continuing to have an impact in the local area, however, this was starting to reduce very slightly. Recent figures from the Department for Work and Pensions for North Lincolnshire showed that the number of claimants for job seekers allowance increased by 78.8% in the period September 2008 to September 2009, with a 2.2% fall from August 2009 to September 2009.

Two national Indicators, NI180 (Right benefits) and NI181 (right time) judged the performance of the benefits service. Despite the increase in workload, performance in benefits had overall remained consistently in accordance with last year’s out turn. In 2008-9 the average time for processing new claims was 24.41 and at the end of October 2009 the year to date figure was 24.44 days. Similarly the time taken to process changes remained good at 12.08 days at the end of October.

Workload had continued to increase considerably in the customer services team, particular relating to benefits. The number of telephone calls in the period April to September 2009 had increased by over 2000 compared to the same period in 2008.

The report gave details of two major changes in legislation affecting benefits from 2 November 2009, which had impacted on the workload.

Work was underway to address the Key Lines of Enquiry action plan and the report also gave details of ongoing work.

Resolved – (a) That the contents of the report be noted, and (b) that the continuing efforts being made in the benefits service to meet the increasing demands on the service be endorsed.

49 (13) NORTH LINCOLNSHIRE PRIVATE SECTOR HOUSING STRATEGY 2010 – 2015 – The Head of Strategic Regeneration, Housing and Development and the Service Director Neighbourhood and Environment submitted a joint report seeking approval of the Private Sector Housing Strategy 2010-2015.

The majority of people in North Lincolnshire owned their own home or rented privately. The Private Sector Housing Strategy had been produced in order to set out the council’s approach to supporting and assisting people living in private accommodation to live in a home that is safe and healthy.

The council also had certain responsibilities and duties regarding private sector housing. The Housing Act 2004 required that a local authority had to keep the housing conditions in their area under review with a view to identifying any actions that might need to be taken. As such a private sector house condition survey was carried out in 2008 and the Private Sector Housing Strategy had been developed to respond to the issues raised by the survey.

The Strategy set out the vision for private sector housing in North Lincolnshire as “Everyone can live in a safe and healthy home, at a price they can afford and that meets their needs.”

The following three priorities had been identified:

  • Safe and Healthy Homes
  • Affordability
  • Adapting homes to meet housing needs

The report gave full details on the priorities in the strategy under the various sections.

Resolved – (a) That the Private Sector Housing Strategy 2010-2015 be approved, (b) that an action plan be fully developed and reported to the Housing and Strategic Cabinet Member once the funding levels had been agreed, and (c) that annual update reports on progress towards achieving the desired outcomes of the Strategy be submitted.

50 (14) DISABLED FACILITIES GRANT PROCESS IMPROVEMENT – The Service Director Neighbourhood and Environment submitted a report seeking approval to change the arrangements for the assessment of people’s needs as part of the disabled facilities grant process.

The duty for councils to give grants to provide access to certain essential facilities was set out in the Housing Grants Construction and Regeneration Act 1996. The legislation set out the purpose and circumstances in which grants must be given. It also made plain that it was the housing authority that awarded grants and that there should be consultation with the social services authority. However, the responsibility for decision making rested with the housing function.

For several years the initial point of contact for most disabled people had been the integrated occupational therapy service (O/T service). The O/T service had made referrals to multi-agency panels comprising adults and children’s social services, North Lincolnshire Homes and the council’s Home Improvement Team. These multi-agency panels had sought to determine whether major adaptations should be provided by disabled facilities grants (DFGs), how they were prioritised or whether other solutions were available.

Considerable effort had been invested in improving the approval and delivery of DFGs after the panel stage. The changes that had been made had seen a reduction since 2008/09 of 24% in the time taken from referral to the multi-agency panels to the formal approval of individual DFGs. Further significant reductions in the time taken to complete DFG works should also take place as the framework arrangements became operational.

It was proposed to return the decision making responsibility to Housing Division, as set out in the report.

Resolved – (a) That the proposals set out in paragraphs 3.1 to 3.6 of the report be approved, and (b) that further reports on the improvement of the process be submitted at a later date.

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