Sara Lewis is the Children’s Safeguarding Co-ordinator for Housing, located in the Housing, Assessments & Solutions (HAS) division of the Health, Wellbeing & Adults Department.
She has a BSc in Public Health and MA in Social Work, with experience working in Adults care team, Children with Disabilities, Unaccompanied Minors, Care Planning and now Housing.
Safeguarding concerns from professionals often involve an element of the home environment of the child or family concerned. On their own, these concerns may not meet the threshold for a referral to Children’s Social Care, but may impact many aspects of the family’s wellbeing.
Sara is keen to be consulted by professionals as Housing’s SPOC equivalent (front door of Housing’s safeguarding practice), overseeing the management of referrals and complex cases. The HAS Safeguarding Plan seeks to raise the division’s safeguarding standards to be more compatible with those in Children’s Services and in line with CSCP policy and recommended practices.
One of Sara’s roles is to promote the early engagement of Housing Services, which can better support families, outside the more ‘final’ (and not always remedially successful for the family) rehousing option. HAS seek earlier engagement via the four management sections (Tenancy; Homelessness & Housing Needs; Income, Lettings, Home Ownership & Renewal; and Temporary Accommodation & Service Development).
The following information offers a brief overview of services available to families from HAS which can impact their safeguarding and wellbeing:
- Council homes and sheltered (additional care) housing management.
- Security of Tenure (Tenancy successions/change of transfers, abandonment).
- Management transfers, mutual exchanges and decants.
- Adult safeguarding issues via Tenancy Sustainment Officers.
- ASB incl. noise nuisance, neighbour disputes;
- Conduit to living conditions, repairs/dampness; and Estate-based, caretaking and environmental issues affecting homes.
Homelessness & Housing Needs
- Homelessness advice and assessment (Triage)
- Prevention, Appeals/Reviews
- Temporary accommodation and allocations.
Income, Lettings, Home Ownership & Renewal
Council homes Income management: affordability, arrears action, eviction avoidance and welfare rights advisors (maximising benefit uptake); Leasehold (leases, service charges & debt) management; Community cohesive engagement activities, events and projects; and Disability (occupational therapy) property adaptations.
Temporary Accommodation & Service Development
- Children leaving Care
- Out-of-borough and private landlord placements (Initiatives)
- Management of Concord, Sycamore and Windsor House temporary accommodation units.
A 21 year old male carer presented with 2 girls aged 8 and 9 and made an application for housing as he was due to be evicted. He was asked to provide documentation confirming the identities of the girls and to prove parental responsibility. Via checks initiated by the Prevention team, the corporate Fraud team were able to confirm the girls had never attended school and a referral was made to Children’ Social Care.
Before warrants are pursued for eviction, Income Officers email Sara Lewis, Children’s Services and associated partner agencies (e.g. Mental Health Services) to check whether the family are known. This approach ensure the Social Worker, Income Officer and Welfare Rights Advisor collaboratively support the family and agree alternative solutions to proceeding with the eviction.
Referral Route Benefits
HAS are piloting a single-route referral form – intended to be used by Children’s safeguarding panels and for general referrals from Social Workers and associated support services.
It collates the essential relevant case-related information. It will enable the responsible Housing Manager to quickly make the right decisions, first time around, moving away from numerous emails to various officers who often do not provide the best critical path to a resolution.
The pilot will run until December 2020 with the team monitoring its use and making adjustments according to feedback received from users The intention is to install it on the Children’s Services recording platform to maximise its impact.
Feedback from Professionals on their experience of using the form is welcomed.
Tel 020 8726 6100 Ext: | Mobile 07514539821
Housing Referral Form: Refer 2 Housing form (Aug 2020)