Edinburgh homeless families in B&Bs reducing amid warning of overloaded council officers

The number of homeless families being sheltered in B&Bs have reduced dramatically over the last 18 months – despite a warning over officials juggling more than 100 cases at a time.

By David Bol
Friday, 30th August 2019, 5:39 pm
Homeless people are sometimes sheltered in temporary accommodation, Picture: Crisis
Homeless people are sometimes sheltered in temporary accommodation, Picture: Crisis

An internal audit report into the city council’s homelessness services found that some officers are dealing with up to 190 cases at once – an average of 135 each. The average case length is now 365 days.

This prompted Labour Cllr Gordon Munro to ask whether additional resources could be put into the service. Four new officers, who will support people presenting as homeless from private rented housing, are set to be recruited by the end of September.

Cllr Munro said: “I do still have concerns with capacity. I’m aware that extra resource was put into this, but it still strikes me that a workload of 130 to 190 cases per officer is a substantial workload.

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“We need to put resource in here to lessen the stress for our workforce and also to improve the service to the people we are serving.”

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He added: “Rushing into just putting additional resources in before we have sorted out some of these processes may be a bit premature.”

Legal B&B placement breaches, where families are there for more than seven days have dropped from 166 in the first quarter of 2018/19 to 43 in the second quarter of 2019/20.

Cllr Kate Campbell, housing, homelessness and fair work convener, said: “I was pleased to see that the service has responded really well to the audit, working with the internal audit team to put in place robust procedures and implement the management actions as soon as possible.

“The audit is the opportunity to robustly examine core services and make sure that we have the best processes and procedures in place to get them absolutely right too.”

Despite the workload on case officers, the situation for families in B&Bs has improved. In February 2018, more than 80 families were being sheltered in the unsuitable accommodation for an average stay of 10 weeks. Now, less than 10 families are currently in B&Bs – with the average stay at three weeks.