This week saw the third and most interesting ETHRAG meeting yet, below contains the minutes of the meeting, which focused on new beginnings and the current campaigning for the Housing and New Homes Committee around Emergency Accommodation plus future ideas which include working with Invisible Voices on their second book and Fringe theatre project.
How Did The Meeting Go
ETHRAG Public Meeting
Saturday 29th October 2016
ML & MH – Percival Terrace
SR & LRC – Percival Terrace
GR – Tent accommodation
AB & IR – Percival Terrace
HW – Private Rented
SH – Tent accommodation
LB – Campaigner
PP – Percival Terrace
M – Rainbow Alliance
CG – Invisible Voices
NP – Invisible Voices
CM – Councillor
TH – Councillor
DH – Temporary Accommodation
YR – Community Works
What issues should ETHRAG focus on?
- There is currently no support for Emergency or Temporary Accommodation (EA/TA) residents. It was raised that ETHRAG members would like to not only campaign to make their own living conditions better but also support others e.g. supporting people moving into EA/TA by welcoming them and providing advice
- There was no sense of community in Percival Terrace before ETHRAG existed. Many people in EA/TA feel isolated and have no one to talk to. EHTRAG has made some members feel safer and provided a support network to fall back on if needed. ETHRAG should continue helping to build community in EA/TA
- The no visitor policy contravenes the right to Home & Family Life: e.g. fathers not able to put their children to bed, mothers having to give up evening jobs because of not being able to invite a babysitter into the building
- The cost of EA/TA (up to £850 a month) when private-rented accommodation can be found cheaper and in better condition elsewhere in the city
- Private landlords creating and enforcing their rules which override council contracts e.g. Night-to-night contracts where people can be evicted with less than 24hrs notice even without breaching the terms of their contract with the council
- Council Officers blocking access to management making it impossible to have contact with any of the people who have the power to actually bring about change
- The conditions of EA/TA including long periods of time between repairs being reported and actioned and even when they are the repairs are carried out poorly e.g. no baths for children, dampness, holes in ceilings
- Fear culture and revenge evictions e.g. people have said they are scared to speak out about the conditions in EA/TA out of fear of being evicted
- Safeguarding concerns e.g. lots of people with very different issues in their lives all living under one roof: single parents, those fleeing domestic violence, young care leavers, those with disabilities
Housing Campaigns Update:
- DH spoke aloud the original 10 points/issues 1600 people signed a campaign against – and from which ETHRAG was born – to check they are all still relevant to current ETHRAG members
HOUSING & NEW HOMES COMMITTEE 15 JUNE 2016
1. Homemove Allocations for vulnerable persons in priority need with a duty of care should be awarded a higher banding than band C (the general band) when placed in Emergency Housing. I am looking for a band A priority.
2. More inspections of Emergency Accommodation to ensure the living standards meets the needs of the people occupying them.
3. The council to adopt a plan to bring emergency housing into public ownership by 2020. They MUST pledge to stop funding private landlords who only have an interest in profit.
4. I want the council to ask all applicants to complete surveys with all emergency housed people to ensure they have a voice.
5. The right to food, is a human right protecting the right for people to feed themselves in dignity, The council must ensure that emergency housing adequately meets the individual’s dietary needs. The current conditions do not allow for a healthy diet which can be a huge issue for vulnerable people.
6. I want the council to be radical and rather than spend millions of tax payers money in private sector emergency and temporary housing, they should build more storage container homes after the success of the BHT scheme in Brighton.
7. I want the council to ensure that all persons in emergency accommodation have access to the internet for free.
8. To revoke the rules on no visitors. Vulnerable people are isolated enough and this in my opinion is discrimination. Even Prisoners are allowed visitors.
9. For persons who are vulnerable the council MUST provide them with secure social housing to ensure they are able to live life free from FEAR and outside the Private Sector Property Scam.
10. Ensure hot water is available in emergency housing for persons to wash in comfort.
DH then discussed the councils response and took votes as a group to decide if we support the member reccommendations.
Increase frequency of inspections to emergency accommodation and report outcomes to H&NH committee
Monthly inspections of the blocks of B&B style accommodation are already undertaken, and any issues are raised with the landlord in line with the contract specifications. Whilst there is a current good track record of repairs being completed in timescale, if issues are not addressed within the timeframes they are dealt with under the contract management arrangements. An annual performance report will be included in the committee papers regarding the number of inspections; actions raised and actions resolved.
ACTION: Group decided they wanted spot checks in addition to this not pre-scheduled and request no emergency accommodation staff present during inspection, residents feel this is intimidation and fear reprisals when they report issues in front of emergency accommodation staff and management. The Group were also clear that they wanted completely independent inspections, they feel the council ones conducted are biased.
Satisfaction surveys undertaken with residents moving into TA and results reported back
Exit surveys will be completed with residents and the information will be included in the annual performance report.
ACTION: Group would like to be involved with the questions asked in this survey and a start date for when this will start.
Review no visitor rule and consider outcome at future meeting
A risk assessment was completed for residents placed in temporary accommodation, to ensure the accommodation will be a safe and secure place for them and other residents; taking into account some residents may be very vulnerable and at risk of predatory behaviour. As the council is unable to carry out risk assessments on visitors, officers can continue to manage the risk and provide a safe environment for all residents by preventing visitors to the accommodation.
ACTION: There was some division in the group, however the group voted 11/3 in favour of reversing the no visitor rule, feeling this is a breach of human rights and something we may take up as a collective issue should the council not consider an alternative.
The group want a drop in centre for those living in temporary and emergency accommodation, this could be seen as an alternative option, with family rooms made available for those in Emergency Accommodation Block not allowing visitors. The group said if percival terrace was not safe for visitors due to the way the building is designed, then we believe it is not fit for purpose for 60 residents of various vulnerable needs, which is reflected in the reports of Emergency Services visiting the buildings.
Note: Members Voted and Supported for :A review of the no visitor rules and consider the outcome at a future meeting; with a brief to devise workable systems that enable residents to have visitors
Adopt policy of using TA which hot water supply is guaranteed.
Hot water is required and provided in all accommodation provided by the council.
ACTION: The Group still report issues at Percival Terrace, including issues whereby the shower conversions were leaking water into floors below. We want the inspections to include a test for hot water and the temperature recorded on record.
To acknowledge the Emergency & Temporary Housing Residents Action Group (ETHRAG) and work in partnership with the group and landlords to improve housing standards and quality of life for residents in emergency accommodation
ACTION: The group had in attendance frontline professionals and elected members who saw the democratic RA ETHRAG in operation, we now request officers find a way for ETHRAG to exist within Brighton and Hove’s Residents Associations frameworks.
To immediately establish an emergency accommodation board comprised of representatives from the Emergency & Temporary Housing Residents Action Group (ETHRAG), service providers, residents, landlords and elected members and council officers. The board will meet regularly to review conditions, complaints, evictions and to develop a strategic plan for recommendation to the Housing & New Homes Committee.”
ACTION: the group want a voice, councillor Clare Moonan explained that Sylvia Peckham wanted more feedback from residents living in Temporary and Emergency Accommodation, the best way for this is for the council to consult ETHRAG representatives, the current state of affairs cannot continue.
As a matter of priority the identification of sites exploration of options for the development of council-owned low cost emergency accommodation, either through a council-owned company or directly owned by the council. That this exploration focuses on non-traditional, quick to build, construction such as the Y cube and containers be considered for these sites;
ACTION: group liked this, but said we can go further with self builds, The group has decided to look further into this and take advice on possible ETHRAG self build project.
- Issues around who would constitute an appropriate/safe ‘visitor’ (family/friends) and how ETHRAG voices itself (comments on the ETHRAG Facebook page) were raised
Ideas around developing ETHRAG in the future:
- Campaign Committee: DH would be interested and would need 2 or more others to sign up ACTION POINT for ALL: If you’re interested in being part of a Campaign Committee please email DH
- Campaign to change the visitor policy so either a.) visitors are allowed in to EA/TA but need to provide ID b.) set visiting hours are put in place or c.) an alternative solution for family members to meet in a safe and affordable way is created i.e. a drop-in centre (St George’s is available for £26 for half a day and St Anne’s Day Centre is £18 an hour. It was suggested that ETHRAG could rotate venues around the city to be more accessible)
- Self-build campaign (Segal system)
- Street Stall: educating the public on the way council money is spent with regards to EA/TA
- Social justice campaigning at the university
- Rent tribunal
- Raise funding for independent surveys (chartered surveyor)
- Homelessness festival which has been run in other locations and could be successful in Brighton & Hove
- Cooking for people in EA/TA which will increase engagement with ETRAG and potentially grow the membership of the group
- ACTION POINT: SH, DH & ML to come up with ideas for events
- ACTION POINT: HW to interlink pre-existing services/organisations ETHRAG can work alongside
14th December Plans:
- Christmas event will take place, mainly for children: Santa, elves, gifts, etc
1-2pm Cllrs Claire Moonan and Tracy Hill:
- The Councillors took questions from those present at the meeting
BBC Radio 4: File on 4 – Brighton and Hove’s
The Hidden Homeless
This will be on tonight at 8pm – You Can Listen to the Show Here: File on 4 The Hidden Homeless
Date for Diary
Next Meeting for ETHRAG is December 14th St Georges Church, Kemptown, Brighton.