41.1 The Board considered an update report on the health and wellbeing inequalities of residents at Kendal Court Newhaven, and homeless people accommodated by Brighton and Hove City Council (BHCC) in temporary accommodation in East Sussex.
41.2 Mark Stainton outlined the actions that had been taken since the last report in December 2021. There has been a significant exchange of correspondence between the two authorities at both officer and elected Member level. There has been some progress, but the fundamental concerns have not been resolved. Preparations are being made to escalate the matter through the legal routes available if this becomes necessary. BHCC has been asked to share the placement details of the 71 Kendal Court residents that have come to East Sussex County Council’s (ESCC) attention in the past 5 years in an attempt to resolve the dispute and avoid further escalation. So far, this information has not been provided.
41.3 There have been a number of improvements in the situation since the last report which include the following:
41.4 There remain are a number of areas (as set out in section 3.2 of the report) where BHCC have been asked to provide assurance that the current arrangements are safe and that future commissioning intentions are safe and sustainable.
41.5 The Chair commented that it is good that both parties have been communicating, but a complete resolution has not been found. Therefore, it is important that the Board continues its efforts to resolve this issue.
41.6 The Board noted BHCC’s intention to included extra welfare officer provision when it re-commissions the service and asked whether this would be provided 7 days a week and 24 hours a day.
41.7 Mark Stainton responded that there are three or four different tiers of accommodation for homeless people requiring temporary accommodation. Most have no or minimal support needs, but others with enduring mental health or substance misuse issues have significant needs. It would be normal for people with these significant needs to have access to 24 hour support. BHCC have advised that they do not place people with such needs at Kendal Court, which ESCC disputes.
41.8 The Board asked if BHCC has met with East Sussex Healthwatch to discuss their report and what the outcome of the meeting was.
41.9 John Routledge, East Sussex Healthwatch outlined that Healthwatch has not had a direct meeting with BHCC to discuss its report and has not had a formal response to the report. However, there have been a number of emails that would indicate that BHCC are responding in a piecemeal way to some of the recommendations in the report, before formally responding to the report. There appears to be some positive improvements with the number of residents housed at Kendal Court reducing from 51 to 31. With vulnerable people the evidence suggests that they deteriorate when placed out of area, so their needs may increase following placement. Also, the BHCC support officers are from Brighton and do not know the area and the local support that is available. Consequently, they may not be in a position to give as much help as East Sussex organisations would be able to offer. This may explain why people deteriorate and why they do not get the help they need.
41.10 The Board asked if BHCC were prepared to pay ESCC to commission locally based support services, whether this might provide a better solution.
41.11 The Chair commented that there is a difference in view between BHCC and ESCC as to the level of support needed. Mark Stainton outlined he was not sure that BHCC would ask ESCC to commission support and this is a housing related issue whereas ESCC provide adult social care. BHCC may consider asking a voluntary sector organisation to provide welfare support which is about signposting and connecting people with services. It is ESCC’s view that a number of people placed at Kendal Court have social care needs under the Care Act as opposed to people who have welfare needs. John Routledge commented that he felt commissioning a local voluntary sector organisation to provide welfare support is a good way forward.
41.12 The Board noted that BHCC has requested a round table meeting with senior officers and lawyers to resolve this matter. ESCC has outlined there would need to a compromise in BHCC’s position in order for this to be an acceptable way forward. The Board asked whether ESCC should be taking BHCC up on their request and what the compromise required would be.
41.13 Mark Stainton responded that meetings at all levels have been taking place since last year including at officer to officer, Director, Leader and at lawyer to lawyer levels. There has been some small progress but there is little merit in meeting to restate ESCC’s position. ESCC has tried to clearly articulate the assurance that is required from BHCC that it is fulfilling its statutory duty. There have been a number of opportunities for BHCC to provide this assurance. It is acknowledged there have been some improvements, and there is now an opportunity for BHCC to provide the assurances that ESCC is seeking (as outlined in section 3.2 of the report), that BHCC is meeting its statutory duty under the Care Act to those people it is placing in Kendal Court.
41.14 The Board asked how the issue of differing interpretations of the Care Act can be resolved.
41.15 Mark Stainton responded that the Care Act is only a part of the issue, and BHCC and ESCC continue to work together operationally to meet peoples’ needs under the Care Act. The main issue is appropriately identifying peoples’ needs when they present as homeless and making sure those needs, whether they are welfare support needs or social care needs, are adequately met and their situation does not deteriorate wherever they are accommodated.
41.16 Some Board members expressed their concern about the timescales involved in BHCC responding to these issues through the re-commissioning of services, and questioned BHCC’s intention to adequately respond to the issues without ESCC taking legal action.
41.17 The Chair commented that it should be acknowledged that a significant improvement has been made and the re-commissioning of services may or may not resolve this issue. ESCC will continue to work with BHCC to influence their thinking and to try and achieve a resolution. Working in partnership is preferable to taking legal action and the concerns about the time it is taking to resolve the situation are noted. Mark Stainton added that it is important to acknowledge the significant challenge BHCC is facing in housing all these individuals. There has been dialogue and there has been some progress. The re-tendering of the service provides an opportunity for BHCC to resolve the situation on a sustainable and ongoing basis. Through correspondence ESCC has been clear about what it believes a good service looks like and what expectations ESCC has. The reduction in out of area placements indicates BHCC’s desire to resolve this situation, and the specification of the re-commissioned service should set out how the care and welfare needs of the individuals BHCC accommodates will be met.
41.18 The Board RESOLVED to:
1) Note the additional information, ongoing concerns and actions set out in this report in respect of Brighton and Hove residents temporarily accommodated in East Sussex; and
2) To receive a further update report on the situation, at its next meeting on 19 July 2022.