Implementation of actions previously recommended by Local Government Ombudsman
Decision maker: Housing Scrutiny Committee
Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Is Key decision?: No
Is subject to call in?: No
Laurence Coaker (Head of Housing Needs) presented a report on the outcome of the recommendations made by the Local Government Ombudsman in August 2016 and the further recommendations by the Community Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee on 23 November 2016 on how London Borough of Brent should deal with cases of domestic
violence and the implementation of the actions which resulted from this.
Further recommendations included a review of West London reciprocal arrangements (arrangements between West London areas on what happens to tenants who move from one borough to another and how not to lose their social tenancy) which were eventually taken over by the pan-London agreement to which all Local Authorities were now signed up to. In order to avoid having two separate agreements, a decision was made by directors that the west London agreement was put on hold and that the pan-London agreement was adopted on a trial basis. A project group was set up between BHP and housing needs officers to review those processes and new procedures had been drafted and sent out to officers. Training on domestic abuse was also being delivered by Shelter. In addition, the Council was leading on a mystery shopping exercise across six participating boroughs which would test how officers were dealing with cases on domestic abuse and would set a benchmark against which to measure improvements. Finally, Mr Coaker stated that an Outcome Based Review had been launched, which highlighted some housing issues and the findings of which would be discussed at a scoping event due to take place in October 2017 and make recommendations to enhance the service.
At a question by members on numbers of suitable accommodation available to victims of domestic abuse, Mr Coaker explained that availability was dependent on certain factors and each case would need to be looked on an individual basis, based on its tenure, location and
protected status to determine which scheme to use. At a question on whether any Invest4Brent Properties could be used on a short term basis for victims of domestic violence. Officers explained that these were private properties but could be used if deemed suitable.
Members further enquired on the issue of retaining social housing status and right to buy in cases where the victim has to relocate and stressed the importance of ensuring that victims were not punished by the process or end up as private tenants. Mr Coaker, reassured the committee that in general detainment of social housing status was on a like for like basis but that secure tenancy depended on the individual circumstances as well as the policies and procedures of the receiving borough. The issue had already been identified in the OBR and was yet to be tested via the pan-London agreement. In addition to this, officers explained the OBR was still in progress, with housing services staff actively involved in the OBR process. A visioning event would be held on 4th October 2017 when all data that had been collected would be shared with stakeholders to develop ideas and feed into the workshops and mystery shopping initiative. Committee members were invited to attend the event and contribute to
The issues of monitoring of work done on vulnerable residents, such as children and elderly was also mentioned in the discussion and the efficiency of the processes put in place to respond to calls for domestic abuse were also scrutinised by the committee. In response, officers assured the committee that the Council had taken appropriate actions to deal with this, including commissioning an OBR and initiating a mystery shopping exercise. In addition, Hakeem Osinaike explained that a performance management structure and comprehensive procedures were also in place which enabled Council services to track progress and deal with any issues accordingly. Finally, the committee stressed the importance of staff training and performance, which the officers reassured was being looked at and that a dedicated team of officers would be set up to specialise in cases of domestic abuse.
i) OBR/pan-London domestic abuse progress report to be presented to Housing Scrutiny committee by March 2018
ii) update on OBR progress under matters arising at next Housing Scrutiny meeting on 1st November
iii) annual update on staff training on dealing with victims of domestic abuse
Publication date: 02/11/2017
Date of decision: 14/09/2017
Decided at meeting: 14/09/2017 - Housing Scrutiny Committee