A senior politician has accused Brighton and Hove City Council of “outsourcing people to die in somebody else’s area”.
East Sussex County Council leader Keith Glazier said that it was “not really something we can put up with”.
Councillor Glazier said: “These are actually people living in conditions that are causing them to lose their life.”
Brighton and Hove City Council has been criticised over the number of deaths of people that it has housed in Kendal Court, Newhaven, with another death and an attempted suicide over the summer.
The deaths have prompted questions about the support – or lack of it – for those given emergency or temporary homes there and whether it was suitable for housing such vulnerable people.
A coroner has voiced concerns, safeguarding reviews have identified issues and the statutory health and care watchdog Healthwatch has raised safeguarding concerns and made a number of recommendations.
Eastbourne Borough Council has even resorted to taking legal enforcement action against Brighton and Hove City Council over a property used there.
The situation at Kendal Court – and the housing of people from Brighton and Hove in Eastbourne – was discussed when the East Sussex Health and Wellbeing Board met on Thursday (30 September).
The board is made up of councillors, senior officials and NHS leaders from across the county. It is chaired by Councillor Glazier.
The meeting was told that legal representatives from Brighton and Hove City Council and East Sussex County Council were due to meet to discuss the continuing dispute around emergency housing.
The board itself discussed the issue at a meeting in July when members resolved to raise their concerns in writing.
East Sussex County Council’s director of adult social care Mark Stainton said that Brighton and Hove City Council had been slow to reply.
The county council’s chief executive Becky Shaw told the meeting on Thursday: “We have, in the last 48 hours, received a note, but as Mark said, we do regret the slowness of the reply that this board has received to the letter that we wrote.
“They’ve confirmed that consistently over 200 people, which is nearly 30 per cent of the people that the city council are placing in emergency accommodation, were placed in Lewes and Eastbourne, including in Kendal Court.
“I think this really clearly suggests that the provision the city has got within its own boundaries is inadequate and requires significant and robust action to address.
“We have, in their latest note, really welcomed their stated intention that they are going to take action and we have seen some reports going through their Housing Committee.
“We particularly welcome a new intention to prioritise the move back into the city area for any client who exhibits vulnerability or needs after they have been placed outside the city.
“It is good news if they are going to take people who do have support needs back into the city but I think we want to see the evidence of that and as Mark said there is a fundamental disagreement about the nature of their statutory duty.”
Ms Shaw said that Brighton and Hove City Council had told East Sussex County Council that it was in the process of moving more people out of emergency housing in Eastbourne.
And she said that Eastbourne Borough Council had taken planning enforcement action in relation to one of the hotels used to house homeless people.
Ms Shaw also said that she and Councillor Glazier had met with their opposite numbers – Geoff Raw and Phélim Mac Cafferty – at Brighton and Hove City Council to discuss their concerns. Legal representatives of both councils are also due to meet.
Councillor Glazier said: “The main thing that I got from the meeting was that in some ways they acknowledge a problem but didn’t acknowledge the scale of the problem.
“They started then talking about the legal meeting to understand what was going on. I just tried on behalf of all of us here to say, whatever the legal problem is, actually outsourcing people to die in somebody else’s area is not really something we can put up with.
“These are actually people living in conditions that are causing them to lose their life. I stressed that at great strength and hopefully we can come to a conclusion sooner rather than later.”
In August, Healthwatch East Sussex published an independent report on the conditions at Kendal Court.
Healthwatch conducted a review of the support needs of homeless people placed in Kendal Court, following an earlier review carried out by the organisation three years ago.
The most recent review, which involved interviews with residents, made a series of recommendations to Brighton and Hove City Council.
These included a recommendation that anyone placed in Kendal Court should have their health and care needs assessed by mental health and/or social care professionals at the time of their housing placement assessment.
If this was not possible, then the assessment should be carried out within a few days of their placement, the review said.
The review also recommended that Brighton and Hove City Council and mental health providers establish a system of mental health support in Newhaven, ideally including on-site support at Kendal Court.
Other recommendations included the need for a private on-site meeting space and to ensure that any new arrivals were provided with essential items and information.
Even if its other recommendations were to be implemented, the Healthwatch review also recommended that people with multiple and complex needs should not be placed in Kendal Court at all.
The review also notes that Healthwatch raised three safeguarding concerns during its two weeks in Kendal Court.
Healthwatch did note, however, that there had been improvements there since its original review.
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