KEY ACTIONS FOLLOWING ON FROM YHRHLS MEETING 1.10.08
AT THE GUILDHALL, YORK
PERSON DATE TO BE
RESPONSIBLE ACTIONED BY
1. Discuss with CG combining interest free
loans & HAL’s to fund Harrogate works, DM 30.10.08
then to notify JN.
2. Confirm with CG if draft business plan will
be issued to LA’s as part of the DM 30.10.08
consultation process & confirm this to LA’s.
3. Discuss issues raised regarding building
insurance with CG & the proposal & then DM / DD 30.10.08
feed back to all LA’s.
4. Email LA’s re changes to auto qualifying
benefits w/c 6.10.08.
5. Circulate loans team service questionnaire. DD 7.10.08
6. Discuss with legal / CG re issues regarding
occupier’s declaration / decision making DM 30.10.08
process & advise LA’s accordingly.
7. All LA’s to email suggestions for a new
name for the YHRHLS to ALL LA’s 20.10.08
8. Agree date & venue with CG & advise
Minutes of The Yorkshire & Humber Regional Home Loans Service Group
Meeting from 1 October 2008
Present – Dene Malkin (Chair), Denise Devoto (minutes) & Andrew Bingham (YHRHLS), Nigel Masters
(Barnsley), Julie Rhodes & Neil Watson (Bradford), Barbara Sands (Calderdale), Neale Redfearn
(Craven), Keith Sinclair (Doncaster), Susan Bolland (Hambleton), Jon Newbegin (Harrogate),
Samantha Stephens & Steve Cale (Kirklees), Lindsay Marsden & Steve O’brien (Leeds), Peter
Bridgestock (Richmondshire), Paul Benson (Rotherham), Serena Williams (Ryedale), Linda Eshelby
(Sheffield), Ruth Abbott & Miles Goring (York).
Apologies – Chris Galley (YHRHLS), Debbie France (GOYH), Wyn Ashton (Craven), Lesley Smith &
Janet Szlamp (Doncaster), Simon Parkinson (Selby), Dave Fowles (Wakefield)
DM welcomed all
Minutes and action points of the last meeting
DM ran through the last meeting’s minutes from both Glasshoughton meetings, asking if
there were any issues that would not be covered later in the agenda, but none were raised
and the minutes were agreed.
Local authority updates on progress
Some LAs had provided updates by the deadline given and the information had been
issued to attendees prior to the meeting. DM asked remainder LA’s to indicate how many
loans they may submit by the end of this financial year: -
During the meeting, updates were provided by:
Barnsley (NM) – They have 2 Caseworkers now trained & assessed. They are still
sorting their policy & they are hoping to provide about 3 for the remainder of the year.
Bradford (JR) – They are submitting on average 8 per month & hope to average a
further 50 loans by end of year.
Calderdale (BS) – They have a steady trickle of applications & expect to average
about 50 loans over the full year.
Craven (MG) – 1 application has been submitted & they currently have a further 4
potential ones, which may be submitted by the end of the year.
Doncaster (KS) – Expect 7 – 10 additional cases by end of the year.
Hambleton (SB) – They currently have no caseworker at the moment & no interest
from clients in HAL’s; therefore do not expect to submit any cases this year. DM to discuss
Harrogate (MG) – hoping to submit a further 4 applications this year, but they need to with CG
do a lot more marketing in their area. They also have an issue with potentially combining int
combining their interest free loan with the HAL to fund work – they are not sure if this free loans &
could work & had previously discussed this with CG. DM advised that he believes it is HAL’s to fund
ok to combine both types of loans to fund work & doesn’t see the difference between Harrogate
using 2 loans & using a HAL & a grant. DM advised he would discuss with CG & works, then to
confirm to JN asap. notify JN
Kirklees (SS) – They now have 4 caseworkers & HAL’s are going really well in their
area. They anticipate a further 30 – 35 applications by the end of the year.
Richmondshire (MG) – don’t expect to send any further applications in, but they
need to do more marketing in their area.
Rotherham (PB) – They still have to finish their policy – this will go to cabinet in Jan /
Feb 09. They have had 1 caseworker trained, but not yet formally assessed, as they
can’t interview until policy completed. Unlikely to submit any applications this year.
Ryedale (SW) – 2 cases submitted & further 1 this year anticipated. Ryedale News is
due out at Xmas & they hope to do an article in that for one of the completed cases (if
they have completed).
Wakefield - No representative, so no update.
Sheffield (LE) – Have made some changes to their processes & now doing joint visits
with caseworkers & TO’s, hope to submit a further 33 cases this year – but not sure.
Definitely a further 10 pending.
Consultation, business plan
JN advised the draft business plan prepared by consultants Weedon, Sector, Grant
(WSG) is being presented today to the Regional Loans Steering Group (RLSG). They
were appointed to do a strategic review of the loans service & produce a business plan.
As part of the process John Jefferies from WSG contacted all LA’s to get a feel of views,
processes, and current log-jams within each area. At the last RLSG meeting these
findings were fed back to the group.
One of the main things WSG were asked to look at was, how the service now operates &
how it will in 3 - 5 years time. Amongst other things, 2 things identified were to ensure
there is good concise marketing of the scheme & production of a service plan for the loans
service – both of which would be overseen by the RLSG.
There are several reasons in the report to try to identify why there has been disappointing
performance & lack of spend across LA’s in terms of the loan fund. However, it has
confirmed that the whole strategic thinking remains sound & it was the right decision to
implement the scheme in-house.
Short term aims are that more emphasis needs to be given to achieving more loans being
submitted from all LA’s.
Medium term aims are around the set up of a Special Purpose Vehicle to lever in private
finance, development of other products, increase size of loan fund & to promote joined up
working with other services across the country – all of which would be overseen by the
One of the things suggested in the report is an informal ‘delivery pact’ for all LA’s to sign
up to, for example to focus more on spend. They are also suggesting the development of
a home improvement loan (on a repayment basis), as well as more alignment of products
& options across LA’s if possible. DM to confirm
No real changes to eligibility criteria suggested, however, have suggested that paperwork with CG if
be made easier (this has already been done by the loans team). draft business
They are also suggesting that there may be 2 types of defined service made available to plan will be
LA’s – one with the options to interview being carried out by the service and one where it issued to LA’s
is carried out by the Council, with the service picking up the process from that point on. as part of the
CG has met with 2 sub-regional groups & has a further meeting 2.10.08 with the 3 sub- consultation
regional group. He will then be arranging individual meetings with LA’s to discuss the process &
service further. confirm this to
It is expected that the draft business plan will be issued to all LA’s as part of the LA’s
consultation process & that the business plan will be discussed with all LA’s at the next
regional meeting, which is anticipated to be pulled forward to December 08.
DM advised that the following report were for information only and that he was not going
to discuss them in any detail, but would deal with any questions raised as necessary:
Summary of progress spreadsheets – cumulative progress
DM highlighted that we have paid out approximately £200k in loans in September & have
received 55 applications in 3 months – which is continuing to show an upward trend. DM
thanked all LA’s for their efforts with this & hoped that long may it continue!
No questions raised by LA’s
Progress report from Glasshoughton meetings
Website – to be covered later in agenda.
Streamline HAL process & interview – the loans team have now completed revised
the process, interview steps & paperwork & feel it is a really positive step, as it has cut
a lot of paperwork out.
A Bradford case has gone to legal work from receipt of application to legal work being
instructed in 10 days – which is fantastic!!
The estimate for the best timescale for the loan process now (assuming that everyone
in the process responds to requests etc & that the application is correctly packaged) –
would be 4 weeks. Although not to promise this to clients.
DM advised we have extending the contracts for the panel of valuers for a further 2
years – we do have issues with a certain valuer, but these are being addressed before
their contract is extended.
Regional caseworker meeting held 4.9.08 – this was attended by caseworkers from
active LA’s. It was a very useful meeting & the loans team listened to suggestions from
caseworkers. It will be a regular 1/4ly meeting & the loans team will keep the loans
group informed of progress.
Staffing issues – Staff capacity in some LA’s is still a problem, especially TO’s &
backlogs with HAL applications are occurring because of this. CG is to visit all LA’s to
talk about issues & see if there is anything we can do to help address these issues.
JN advised maybe HIA’s tie in with this issue & the support / delivery they do on behalf
of LA’s. LE advised the Stayput have now changed their minds on delivering loans on
behalf of LA’s.
New Loan Products – it is the service’s intention to take forward the development of
new loan products, primarily the Home Improvement Loan (repayment) – but this will
be addressed as part of the business plan.
Increasing take-up through wide eligibility & less restrictive work – CG to discuss
this in individual meetings with LA’s & try to get a more consistent approach for
eligibility & work allowed. BS advised that some clients are finding it difficult to accept
that they have little control over what they can fund with the HAL i.e. it’s their money,
why can’t they have what they want?
Hopefully widening the criteria should help uptake & spend of HAL’s.
AB advised that the initial idea for the website was for SCC to host the site, but there are
capacity issues within SCC’s IT team – therefore they can’t realistically look at this for us
until Jan 09 at the earliest. As an interim measure the Regional Assembly has agreed to
host the site for us & it will go live in the next few days. However, the Regional Assembly
will cease to exist in approximately 6 months, so an alternative will have to be set up by
then hosted by SCC.
AB gave a presentation to show the proposed relevant pages that will be on the website,
although it is a continuing piece of work & still under development. One of the main thing
the team is trying to avoid is sending large attachments to LA’s with updates & changes
etc. Emails now will only be sent as a prompt for LA’s to check the website for changes.
However, any really important information etc will still be sent by email.
Clients will also be able to access specific areas of the website. LA’s will receive log on
details for specific members of staff in due course – which will probably be managers
involved with the loan scheme, caseworkers & any other LA which need access. It might
be a generic log in given for all staff in LA’s to use.
A copy of the presentation given AB attached to show the various pages LA’s can expect
to be able to view.
JR suggested that we need to explain very clearly to clients across all LA’s why they are
getting a loan from SCC & what their connection to each LA is, as well as being very
careful explaining why the service exists for the region.
BS suggested putting the HAL DVD on, but DD advised the file is too big to be able to do
BS also advised that it would be important that it is kept up to date, so LA’s can
completely rely on it. DM acknowledged this & advised it will make it much easier for the
loans team to be able to update all documents etc, so this should hopefully not be a
JR asked would this now negate the need for RHB updates. If so, would the loans team
still keep a record of all changes to processes etc, in case LA’s are challenged by clients
on process changes etc? DM advised would probably negate the need for RHB updates,
but not sure – however, the loans team would be responsible for keeping a record of all
changes & regularly keep archived versions etc? RA suggested there could be an archive
page for this?
SC asked if there would a forum page for members? DD advised yes but still under
Building insurance – do we need a copy annually? – We currently ask clients to
provide appropriate building insurance before the legal work commences & then on an
annual basis on request. When the client doesn’t return their annual policy to us, it
causes unnecessary work for the loans team & for LA caseworkers. DM asked the
question that we consider if we now want to adopt the approach of only asking for
insurance details in the first year & then place the liability on the client to ensure they have
sufficient insurance for the duration of the loan.
The group asked the following questions –
If someone had breached this condition, would we actually repossess their property? - it
was agreed probably not.
Is the risk of some detrimental happening to the clients so minimal it’s not worth the work
to check annually? – it was agreed it was probably very minimal.
Do we not ask for building insurance at all & just strongly recommend the client to ensure
their property is adequately insured for the duration of the loan? – it was agreed that the
risk in the first year was greater than in subsequent years, especially with contractors on
site & therefore we should continue to request building insurance in the first year, but not
there after. It was also agreed that it sets the scene for the client as to what is expected in
terms of insurance & re-iterates it is their responsibility to maintain insurance
Could we insure the risk ourselves & set up a block policy? – this wasn’t known, but DM
advised would discuss with CG & report back to group.
What happens if clients genuinely cannot get insurance on their property, for example
flood victims? - It was agreed the case would need to be submitted as an outside criteria
case & each case would be assessed on its own merits.
What happens if they are unable to afford the premium? Could we wrap the first year’s
premium up into the loan? – It was agreed that there appeared to be no reason why the
first year’s premium couldn’t be added on to the loan amount. The main issue with this DM to discuss
was that the insurance premium amount on the loan could not be drawn down until the issues raised
work completed & an invoice was received by the loans team. Therefore LA’s would need with CG & the
to fund this themselves & then claim a reimbursement from YHRHLS once the loan had proposal &
been drawn. It would mean there would be a risk of the client not completing their loan & then feed back
therefore the LA not being reimbursed for the insurance premium. Also there is no reason to all LA’s
to stop the client setting up a policy, providing us with a copy of the policy & then
cancelling the policy after the loan has completed. This is something we would have no
DM advised he would discuss all the issues raised with CG & the proposal that we only
ask for insurance in the first year & then do not in subsequent years – DM would then feed
back to all LA’s
Auto-qualifying benefits re budget planner – can list be extended as per SO’s email
of 30.9.08? – A discussion was had regarding adding additional passport benefits (as YHRHLS to
defined by the government) on to the auto qualifying list following on from a question email LA’s re
raised by Leeds, on the assumption that clients in receipt of these benefits cannot access changes to
commercial borrowing. All were in agreement to do this. The benefits to be added are – auto qualifying
Council Tax Benefit, Housing Benefit, Working or Child Tax Credit (where the calculated benefits w/c
amount has been assessed on an annual income of £15,050 or less). Also all Income 6.10.08
Support elements will now be auto qualifying (not just including a disability element). An
update will be issued to all LA’s early w/c 6.10.08 to advise of this change with immediate
effect & that it now negates the need for a budget planner to be completed for clients in
receipt of these benefits.
DFG for children with none means testing – should it negate the need for a budget
planner? (raised by Leeds) – Leeds raised this question & asked if we should
automatically allow parents of disabled children to have access to a HAL if they want to,
regardless of the income that they have? Therefore, removing the need for a budget
planner to be completed & submitted to prove they can’t access commercial borrowing?
JN & JR advised they thought that clients who equity in their properties, shouldn’t be
treated any differently because they have a disabled child, especially if they have the
income to support a commercial loan.
DM stressed that the HAL is still a loan of last resort. BS advised that she could see both
sides, as clients don’t ask to have disabled children & seemed to be penalised for this, if
they do not want to raise the funds commercially. BS asked do we consider looking at a
way of being able to give the client the choice, as long as we explain all options.
DM advised we need to really completely review the purpose of the budget planner for
HAL’s & what it actually achieves for us in terms of whether it is now an appropriate tool in
determining if someone can access commercial borrowing. JR advised Bradford have
their own financial assessment which is more strict than ours & completed before they
even start the HAL process.
It was agreed to that budget planners should still be a requirement to be completed for
HAL’s where disabled children are involved & where their parents are not on an auto
qualifying benefit or over 60.
Interim payments – With immediate effect YHRHLS are now able to pay interim
payments to assist builders with cashflow issues, especially for large jobs & due to the
current climate. It was asked if we would restrict the number of interim payments we
would make? DM advised no, but we appreciate if LA’s could be reasonable with the
number of requests & that LA’s should continue to use the existing forms in place for
interim payments. An email will be sent to all LA’s to confirm this.
Service Questionnaires – DM advised that CG has produced a new service
questionnaire for LA’s, which we would like LA’s to review. DM advised that LA’s will be
asked to complete one of these in Jan 09 to enable them to give feedback on the service DM to
provided by YHRHLS. circulate loans
DM also advised that with immediate effect we will not be issuing service questionnaires team service
to clients, but would like LA’s to pass on to us any feedback they receive from clients questionnaire
regarding the service provided by YHRHLS. It was also suggested that LA’s add
something into their own client questionnaires asking about the service provided by
YHRHLS. BS advised that it would be useful to see the questions that were on the loans
team questionnaires that were sent to its clients. This would help them to add in any
necessary questions to the LA’s own questionnaire. DM agreed to circulate this info.
Issues around occupier’s declarations where occupiers are incapable of signing –
explained that we have had a couple of HAL cases recently where the client’s dependent
child over the age of 17 has been too severely physically / mentally handicapped to be
able to understand & sign an occupier’s declaration. Both cases have been referred to
SCC’s legal team for advice & they are advising that we should obtain power of attorney
or go through the court of protection, so that the child’s mother / father can sign one of
behalf of them. DD advised though that this may not necessarily be granted, if the courts
feel there is a conflict of interest. SCC legal have also advised that CG does not have the
authority or powers to waive the need for this & a Band A is required each time a scenario
occurs like this.
DM advised that he is hoping that the LA’s can agree a variation to the contract, to allow
CG the discretion to make decisions on issues like this – but legal have advised that
SCC’s actual policy doesn’t allow for this. JR advised it appears to be a bigger issue &
the contract appears to need something in it that allows for CG to have discretion. It
appears that SCC’s own policy is too restrictive in terms of the decision making process. DM to discuss
JR proposed that we change handbook / process so that all decisions of this nature are with legal &
submitted to the Special Cases Panel first & then the final decision to be made by CG advise LA’s
taking into consideration the views of SCP representatives. DM will look into this further & accordingly
discuss further with SCC’s legal – he will then advise LA’s accordingly.
Potential name change re loans service – The business plan has identified that the DD to email all
name of YHRHLS is too long winded & doesn’t really intimate what service we provide. LA’s to
WSG have suggested a name change – their suggestion is something along the lines of request
The Home Service. suggestions
CG has invited suggestions from all LA staff who would like to make a suggestion be
(sensible ones of course!) to be submitted to the loans team by 20 October. The winning Emailed to
entry will win a bottle of wine – staff should email email@example.com with denise.devoto
their suggestion. The chosen name will be confirmed in due course after discussion with @sheffield.gov
the RLSG. .uk by 20.10.08
Missing presumed dead query – BS raised an issue where they have a client whose
wife is missing presumed dead for approx 20 years – he has now managed to get a
divorce. The client is a pensioner living in a property worth approx £200k with a mortgage
of approx £20k. He is currently going through the courts to try to get her removed from
the deeds, as he wishes to apply for a HAL – the tenancy has already been severed & his
case is due in court by end of October, where a decision will hopefully be made.
Calderdale legal have advised that a legal charge can be registered on half of a property,
but the loans team have been advised that all new loan paperwork would be necessary &
there would be a cost of approx £700 - £1000 for them to re-draft the paperwork & seek
land registry approval for a £6k loan. It also becomes more complex & complicated to
explain the HAL to the client. We also need further evidence before we can pay for
additional legal costs to redraft paperwork etc.
DM proposes that we wait until after the next court hearing to see if case can be resolved
this way. If not, then more discussions would be necessary to try to resolve the situation.
Agreed by group.
BS thinks this won’t be a unique situation where parties are divorced. DM advised this
also raises issues with transfer of equity from sole to joint applicants & whether we should
add spouses etc on to deeds & then add fees to loan for solicitor work. However, Wake
Smith would not be able to do the legal work, as it would cause a conflict of interest.
BS also asked could we wrap up re-accomodation costs on to the loan for clients where
they need to relocate whilst a property is improved? The group advise no we would not &
suggested that the client seek housing benefit assistance etc or other alternatives.
Including DLA & AA in budget planner – SO asked if DLA & AA would now negate the
need for a budget planner to be completed given the discussions noted above? DM
advised this may be incorporated as be part of an alternative form of assessing clients to
see if they can access commercial borrowing.
How are fees funded by each LA? – SC asked how fees are funded in each LA? RA
explained that all NY agency fees are funded by the RHB fund due to the lack of funding
within individual LA’s. However, all the members of the NY sub regional group had to
agree to this.
JR advised that they are rolled up into the loan for Bradford cases, same as in Calderdale.
DM advised that SCC currently still grant aid them out of their capital programme funds.
Concerns re additional products for caseworkers to discuss with clients – JR
advised that their financial assessment officers are concerned that the more products that
are available through LA’s, it will put them in a position of potentially giving financial
DM advised that at the moment we don’t know how additional products will fit in & what
the criteria will be for them etc. However, we might need to think about an IFA panel as
we are saving costs on lenders consents etc – but there is a lot of work to be done on this
yet, as well as new product development.
Dates of next meetings DM to agree
To be held December 2008 – date & venue to be confirmed (brought forward due to the date & venue
draft business plan) with CG &