The following letter was sent from Councillor Stephen Robinson, Leader of Chelmsford City Council, to Luke Hall MP, Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing, on Thursday 21 May 2020.
Thank you for your letter of 27 April encouraging us to do more to support victims of domestic abuse. I am pleased to report that Chelmsford City Council has for some time been working hard to meet the increased demand on this subject and other housing-related issues. Below are a few of our initiatives plus a request for your support to do more.
We are working with the LGA-issued guidance notes and carrying out the following in conjunction with local partners:
- Weekly calls with Safer Places who operate our local refuge, helping them manage shared accommodation, identify most urgent cases for move-on and other operational issues
- Drafting SLA for allocation of £90,000 grant secured by CCC from MHCLG for Safer Places to support the development of their services in Chelmsford and west Essex
- Meetings with colleagues at Harlow where the majority of Safer Places accommodation is and our main local social housing provider (CHP) to build a stronger strategic approach led by Safer Places across these districts, creating more opportunities and options for those at risk
- Developing and supporting an ‘Ask Janine’ awareness campaign, targeting supermarkets and chemists – places where people may legitimately still go – so staff are aware and able to assist if someone presents asking for help (one of our staff was involved with developing this idea)
- Identifying the need for additional supported accommodation in Chelmsford and helping Safer Places develop a business plan for working with a potential investor
- Exploring the need for a domestic abuse forum in Chelmsford, based on example already in place in Harlow, to improve joint working between CCC, Safer Places, CHP and other potential partners
- Identifying alternative options that are safer for those who have already become homeless – we currently have roughly 50 households accommodated in our own temporary accommodation, more than five times the number in the local refuge, who are homeless for this reason.
- Routine welfare calls to all those in TA to make sure they are ok and signpost to these services if necessary.
- Working with Next Chapter who are commissioned by Essex CC but do not have any accommodation in the district.
Reducing homelessness from domestic abuse remains a top priority. We are working on extra, suitable accommodation and stronger partnership working to do that.
However, you need to be aware that the funding for councils announced by Robert Jenrick still does not cover the full financial impact on us or any other council. We estimate our total financial cost from the lockdown will be at least £7 million, and that would only be if we get back to normal from end June, which clearly is not going to be the case. So the £1.8 million we have just received in the second round of local authority support will help but will leave us way short of making up our total losses.
We are keen to reduce homelessness from ALL causes but cannot do it without Government support.
Councillor Stephen Robinson
Leader of Chelmsford City Council
Wednesday 3 June 2020