Homelessness and rough sleeping strategy

Strategic priority 1 - preventing homelessness

The Housing (Homeless persons) act 1977, Housing act 1996 and the Homeless act 2002 placed statutory duties on local housing authorities to prevent and tackle homelessness in their areas.

The Homelessness Reduction Act (HRA) 2017 has placed a legal duty on councils to offer more support to a wider range of people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness and to intervene earlier. The HRA has not made any changes to the main duty but it puts in some additional steps in place with the aim of improving the prevention of homelessness to a greater number of people.

Before making a decision under the main duty, all local authorities in England must now work with anyone who is at risk of becoming homeless within 56 days to:

  • agree and help them with a personal housing plan for the next 56 days that will seek to prevent them from becoming homeless, irrespective of whether or not they are in priority need, may be intentionally homeless or have a local connection
  • if this fails, seek to relieve their homelessness by helping them to find somewhere else, if they are still homeless after 56 days then consider what our duty is under the main duty
  • everyone seeking assistance is required to agree the actions of their personal housing plan, if they refuse to cooperate then we do not have to offer any further help and is no longer under any duty to help
  • some organisations, such as hospitals, prisons, social care, job centres and the armed forces are now under a duty to refer anyone who wants help because they may become homeless within 56 days to a local housing authority of their choice.

Preventing homelessness at the earliest convenience remains our primary focus.

Early interventions

Our main priority will always be to prevent homelessness wherever possible, ideally through the provision of robust housing advice early on which enables a household to remain in its current accommodation. Due to the challenges we face assisting households to access suitable and appropriate accommodation, we are more than ever working hard to keep households in their current accommodation. Where this is not possible we support the transition into alternative accommodation. This approach is firmly embedded within our Newcastle Housing Advice service.

The introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act, whilst challenging in terms of supporting infrastructure and resources, did not require a complete culture shift for the NHA service as preventing homelessness has always been their primary focus. Preparation for the HRA included training for all staff, a new and robust IT system and referral arrangements made with a wide range of partners.

Our Newcastle Housing Advice Service (NHA) has a range of prevention options available to residents. We want to ensure that the interventions we offer are effective in preventing homelessness, which in turn will reduce the demands on our frontline staff and should also assist in reducing the need for us to use temporary accommodation.

We recognise for early intervention, there is the need to ensure that there is a wide range of easily accessible information available to enable those who can self-help to access our resources and follow advice and guidance to remedy their personal situations. As our service is continuing to get busier we want to enable customers who are able to self-serve, are able to do so by offering comprehensive online advice and self-help tools, which in turn will reduce demands on the team. This will also enable the team to focus their time and expertise on our more complex and vulnerable customers.

For customers who are more complex and vulnerable, we recognise there is the need to identify any underlying issues and risks they may have as early as possible and ensure that relevant services are able to intervene to prevent homelessness. This means encouraging our partners to work with us by fully embracing the prevention ethos in the delivery of their services. It is important that customers are swiftly referred to the correct organisations already providing assistance rather than other agencies working in isolation and who may be taking on unnecessary responsibilities.

Continuous service smprovement

Sustaining and developing further homelessness prevention measures is key to providing more flexible and responsive services. We are committed to providing excellent fit for purpose homelessness and housing advice services to all our customers. Our commissioning processes ensure that agencies who deliver services on our behalf have experience and can demonstrate a wealth of knowledge and expertise.

Our NHA service is no exception, we have a professional team who possess an in depth knowledge with many years of experience in housing advice and homelessness issues. There are processes in place to ensure that this knowledge is retained and developed further. Staff have regular refresher training to ensure that the service is able to respond to developments in homelessness and housing law.

Annual review of homelessness strategy

We remain in an extremely financially challenging time and this strategy has the role to ensure that resources ploughed into homelessness services are used to their full potential. This means that during the life of this strategy, if budgets dictate we may need to look at what is currently being delivered, prioritise and if required reshape and restructure that provision in accordance with the demands of the changing market. With this in mind, our strategy will in effect be constantly under review and its purposefulness and effectiveness considered annually.

Commission services to prevent homelessness

Our Newcastle Housing Advice service is supported by a number of complementary homelessness services. These services offer practical assistance to specific groups in order to prevent homelessness. The ability to strategically commission specific services with our partners is critical in enabling us to deliver effective proactive services that will prevent homelessness and ensure that repeat homelessness is minimised.

As we plan to review the position of this strategy on an annual basis, the findings will inform our future commissioning processes and enable us to respond to emerging local issues. Our commissioning processes ensure that services are compliant to equality and diversity issues and accessible to all our residents.

We will:

  • ensure that the prevention and relief of homelessness remains the primary focus at NHA
  • continue to strengthen and improve the working relationships with our partners across the borough and North Staffordshire to ensure all those effected by or at risk of homelessness receive the best outcomes
  • monitor and act upon the impact of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 within our services and partners
  • annually review our homelessness strategy
  • respond to local needs when embarking upon the procurement of future homelessness services