Agenda item

Presentation on the findings of the Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) research and the development of a BME strategy for Housing (Agenda Item 8)

Presentation by the Strategic Housing Manager.

Minutes:

The Principal Housing Officer – Strategy and Enabling gave Members a presentation on the findings of Fordham Research who had been commissioned, by Breckland and funded by 23 organisations, to produce a report analysing the housing and support needs of Norfolk and Waveney’s Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) groups.  This was in the context of the Government’s recognition that housing could play a significant role in enhancing race equality and community cohesion.  The aim of the study was to improve understanding of BME communities’ housing circumstances and support needs and better inform BME strategies and policies created by local councils and organisations.

 

To achieve this aim the study drew on a number of sources including:-

 

·              A review of secondary data including the Census and existing research.

·              Stakeholder consultation with organisations working with BME communities in the study area.

·              Survey of BME residents conducted via face-to-face interviews.

 

There was no universally accepted definition of a person’s ethnicity or ethic background; it was therefore good practice to allow individuals to self-identify.  National Census categories were used to define groups, including those who identified as White Irish or White Other. 

 

Complications existed over the over-simplified White Other groups as this was thought to predominantly include recent migrants to the UK from Eastern Europe.  Further analysis had therefore been conducted looking at Nationalities to ensure coverage.  Migrant workers were be defined as individuals who had moved to the UK within the past five years to find or take-up work.  The nationalities of those White Others included Portuguese, Polish, Lithuanian, Hungarian, Latvian, Cypriot, Slovakian, Russian, Brazilian, Estonian, Czech and Ukranian.

 

However, it was understood that the percentages of the BME groups could be misleading as they did not take into account asylum seekers.  It was further noted that the numbers of migrant workers may fluctuate as they may return home or seek work in other areas.

 

There were 62 different languages spoken in Norfolk and Waveney; although 85.4% of the BME population could speak English with 81.1% being able to read English. 

 

With regard to housing circumstances 33% lived in flats/maisonettes; 57% lived in houses; 10% living in temporary structures, such as caravans and 80% of the accommodation was shared with non-family members.  The majority of the sample had lived in their accommodation more than a year with the most mobility within the White Other category.  Within that category 75% of those surveyed indicated that the accommodation was their main home with 66% indicated it was not their main home.  Most of this category rented their housing through the private sector with only 3% being housed through social landlords.

 

To conclude the report found that whilst there were no housing needs identified, specific to a BME group, which were not relevant to the general population most BME groups were unaware that information and services were available.  There was an element of feeling discriminated against when accessing services and most information was obtained through informal networks.  In order to move forward an Action Plan would be produced which looked at the areas for improvement and the best practice to tackle those areas.  Leaflets would be produced on a county wide basis to inform those groups of the services available.  Whilst those leaflets would not be produced in 62 languages there would be information available in the predominant language of an area.

 

In answer to comments made by Members the Principal Housing Officer gave the following responses:-

 

·              With regard to American serviceman they would be they would be picked-up by other categories; although it was understood that they did not need to pay Council Tax.  It was further noted that there was a hidden population who were not voting and were using services such as education and GP surgeries.

·              With the EU opening markets within Britain this has had led to an influx of migrant workers; not just in Breckland but across Britain.  The Council needed to ensure that it was providing services to all groups to ensure equality within the District.

·              Individuals and families were contacted by targeting areas where a large number of migrant workers were residing and through the Council’s Community Liaison Officer.

·              The cost of providing services to a person from a BME group was no different unless there was a translation cost.  However, translation costs could be shared across the districts; especially when generic information had been translated.

·              Members felt that minority groups may not take-up social housing as they may have fears of being housed away from their network of friends and families.  Members were informed that it was not known why minority groups chose private rented accommodation; although most people wanted to live in their own communities.

·              There were mechanisms for dealing with Houses in Multiple Occupations.  A licensing scheme was already targeting HMOs to ensure they were fit for purposes.

·              If Members were aware of ‘hot bedding’, where a number of beds would be installed in a house and would be shared on a rota basis, they should contact the housing team to enable them to investigate. 

·              With regard to the 135 houses currently being built in Swaffham these would be allocated to those on the housing register.  Part of the information which would be provided to BME groups would relate to the housing register and how they could be added if they so wished.

Members wished to note the findings of the report which concluded that the housing needs of BME groups were no different to that of the general population.  However, better communications of the services on offer would be circulated through a Norfolk wide initiative.  As a significant element of the White Other population were transient there needed to be regular monitoring of BME figures to ensure that communities were sufficiently resourced to deal with their populations. 

Members were informed that the complete final report would be provided on the website together with the slides.

RESOLVED that

(1)    the findings of the Housing Support Needs of Black Minority Ethnic Communities in Norfolk and Waveney be noted; and

(2)    the complete final report together with the presentation slides be made available on the website.

RECOMMEND that regular monitoring of the BME populations be undertaken in order to ensure that communities were sufficiently resourced to deal with their population.

Supporting documents: