Council briefing: Covid-19 – Additional Accommodation Needs

The briefing below outlines how the City of Edinburgh Council is planning to manage any extra demand for temporary accommodation arising from the Covid-19 crisis.

This briefing note confirms the creation of a team to which will actively co-ordinate the provision of additional temporary accommodation and support for a range of requirements brought about by the Covid -19 pandemic. The Additional Accommodation Needs Team (AANT) was agreed through the Council’s Incident Management Team on 22 March 2020.

The Council and Health and Social Care partners, through a variety of routes have been offered a range of accommodation from social housing and the private sector in addition to the potential use of university accommodation. To actively manage this, we will:

  1. Send out a Council message to thanks those who have come forward so far;
  2. Advise we will be in touch before the end of the week, if not earlier to gather additional information regarding numbers, costs and support requirements. For example. we have had an offer so far from one provider of a 500 bedded hotel;
  3. We will include in the message a contact e mail for any additional offers to come into -and a response will be provided within 3 working days of receipt.
  4. We are drawing up a checklist of the information we will need to gather form these providers.
  5. We will provide a progress report on, types of accommodation, and approximate numbers to Andrew Kerr and the Cabinet by Friday 27th and then on a weekly basis thereafter. Future progress reports will identify both the level of demand and the properties that we are progressing.

Currently there are in the region of 3500 households in various forms of temporary accommodation in the city. Around 1300 of these spaces are shared accommodation, some with self-contained rooms, some
sharing facilities.

On average there are around 80 – 120 people rough sleeping each evening, although street-based outreach services have indicated that this has reduced over the last 2 weeks.

In addition, up to 70 people use the Bethany Christian Trust Care Shelters each evening, this includes people with no recourse to public finds. This accommodation is accessed on a night by night basis. The shelters continue to operate at the moment and there are no confirmed cases of Covid -19 from people accessing the shelters. Public Health (Duncan McCormick) have been extremely helpful in assessing the arrangements and working practices in place within the Shelter and have visited recently. Public Health will play an active part in this team, providing the necessary advice and direction to ensure safe provision of temporary accommodation in light of Covid 19.

In relation to Bed and Breakfast accommodation we are being guided by advice from public health in relation to individual circumstances and we have also identified some self-contained accommodation for families currently in Bed and Breakfast to move in to and these moves are taking place.

Current Circumstances
To date there have been a low number of requests from health partners to accommodate people who require to self-isolate. However, this is likely to increase and given the projected demand for hospital beds, it is likely a significant number of people who are in hospital, but who don’t need to be, will require alternative accommodation to free ups beds. This could potentially run into the hundreds.

We may also receive increased demands for accommodation in general. In addition, we are aware that the Scottish Government is currently considering the release of prisoners who are nearing completion of their sentences, in order to free up space within Prisons and reduce spread within the prisons.

On Friday, 17 homeless people who were in temporary accommodation were self-isolating, within the properties. These people have been provided with food packages and some have required additional care and support. Whilst these arrangements were made on an ad hoc basis initially, we have developed this team to take a more coordinated approach to the following elements:

  1. Identification of needs for self-isolation and additional temporary accommodation
  2. Collation of the offers of assistance from both the private sector and the social housing offers
  3. Matching need to offers that are viable, and
  4. Identifying and sourcing support packages in the form of both supplies and care support. This will need to include support for those with drug or alcohol addiction problems.

To ensure we are able to access the accommodation we need, manage costs and demand there needs to be a clear line of responsibility. Through the temporary accommodation service manager and our housing team, who have offered a project manager, we have the ability to do this in a coordinated way across the team.

This approach gives clear and specific roles to colleagues and partners, to ensure that we are as efficient as possible and that the right people, with expertise in their field can provide input in a joined-up way.
The following people have been identified:

  1. Lead Officer
  2. Sourcing and provision of accommodation to meet existing and future demand – An Officer and a project manager, will be required to co-ordinate offers, negotiate prices, ensure that supply meets demand at the correct time and manage the operational process around the allocation of properties.
  3. Alcohol and Drugs support – An Officer, will identify the people who require additional support in relation to drug and/or alcohol addiction including assessment of need and the package of care required.
  4. Care packages (including food) – An Officer, will identify and arrange the care packages including food, required for those taking up accommodation and will be the link to the Health and Social Care Partnership,
  5. Public Heath Advice – An Officer, will provide advice and guidance around the appropriate public health approach that is required for people accessing accommodation and for all homeless people currently in or accessing temporary accommodation.
  6. Procurement – Maggie Deane, will provide professional guidance and support around the purchase of accommodation to meet the Council’s needs including but not limited to waiver requirements, contract standing orders and authority levels.
  7. Legal Services – An Officer, will provide professional guidance and support around all legal aspects related to this project, including ensuring occupancy agreements meet our legal requirements.

These specific roles will allow this group to focus on their area of expertise and minimise the risk of duplication and/or inconsistent messaging.

Further to this, it limits the numbers of people involved in decision making, whilst allowing the leads to seek views from their area of work before reporting back to AANT.

Given the likely acceleration in Covid -19 cases and therefore the requirement for accommodation, care and support to be to be provided quickly and at significant levels, it is proposed that the team will meet on Tuesday 24 March 2020 via Skype to agree a meeting schedule, likely to be at least twice a week to ensure all information is as up to date as possible.

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