A new system of housing young people will be affordable and will not require tenants to supplement rent from their own incomes, Essex County Council has said.
Essex County Council (ECC) has agreed a single countywide five-year contract for the provision of housing related support services for vulnerable young people in Essex based on an annual spend of £2.575 million.
The current service delivered by Nacro has been extended for two years and now expires in May 2022. However, the current model led to numerous challenges including staff recruitment and retention, and in management of empty properties.
As a result, the council has agreed to reduce these “voids” by reducing the capacity of the service by 12 units of accommodation by the sub-contractor.
The number of young people using the service has remained relatively constant. An average of 148 young people enter the service per year and the number of active clients range from 232 to 262 at any one time. With this number forecast to remain at around 250, levels of complexity are forecast to increase, following trends seen in the Essex children in care population.
Available data indicates that when ready to move on 35 per cent of young people move into local authority social housing. 11 per cent move into private rented accommodation, 11 per cent return to family and 11 per cent stay informally with friends.
As holding a tenancy in the private rented sector is the most likely step into independence for any young person in Essex, the expectation will be that the future service innovates to develop broader ‘move on’ opportunities in addition to social housing.
However, Councillor Mike Mackrory, Liberal Democrat group leader, is worried that some of the rent will be paid out of the young people’s own income- primarily housing benefit.
He asked ECC’s cabinet: “Does that mean then that if the benefit doesn’t cover the rent then young people have got to fund the balance through their other if they’ve got any other sources of income?
“And won’t that make it very difficult if they can’t afford to live on what’s left of their income and their benefits?”
Cabinet member for children and young families, Louise McKinlay, said: “Part of the support that is intended to be included in this is around tenancy sustainment and it’s a key element to that support because we want to enable young people to live independently and to be able to manage their tenancies.
“So a lot of the support that is built into this is around achieving that the provision will be required to be affordable so that young people can realistically pay their rent from their housing benefit.
“In addition this is supplemented by intensive housing management which is claimed by registered housing providers and helps to fund some of the service charges.”