Homelessness and rough sleeping strategy
Strategic priority 3 - work in partnership to address homelessness in the borough
Tackling homelessness and rough sleeping requires collective actions across the borough. No one person or organisation can deliver solutions to homelessness on their own. We want to make sure throughout this strategy, that our partners understand what is needed to reduce homelessness and how important their contributions are.
Effective partnerships are key to preventing homelessness, this ethos has been strengthened further by the HRA, the need to identify any underlying issues and risks our customers may have is paramount in enabling us to intervene and either prevent or address homelessness. This means encouraging our partners to work with us by fully embracing the prevention ethos in the delivery of their services. Alongside this, is the new duty to refer within the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, it is becoming increasing necessary to ensure that different services embed the prevention ethos within their work streams.
Our homelessness services are commissioned by us in partnership with a number of organisations who deliver services on our behalf. In addition to the services we commission there are a wide range of organisations who provide services which assist in tackling homelessness without receiving any funding from us, these include support providers, housing providers, the advice sector, the voluntary sector, charities, churches and other faith groups. Other statutory agencies such as probation, health and social care providers and education also have a pivotal role.
We understand that just like us, there is an uncertainty for our partners in relation to what demands are going to be placed upon them in the future and therefore it is important to ensure that all our services run efficiently and customers are swiftly referred to organisations already providing assistance, we co-ordinate as many services energies, ideas, talents and expertise as possible.
We believe that through the work of our previous homelessness strategies we have built and developed a wide range of successful partnerships, in this strategy we will continue to strengthen those relationships with particular focus being given to mitigating the impacts of welfare reforms, domestic abuse and improving the health and wellbeing of our customers.
Mitigating the impact of welfare reform
The impact of welfare reform is something we cannot address in isolation. The reforms have reduced the income levels of many households, placed restrictions upon the type of housing a household can apply for and resulted in additional rental costs for those who are seen as under occupying tenancies.
Universal Credit which is administered by the Department of Works and Pensions, provides a single monthly payment to one member of the household, this is paid in arrears.
Potential implications for our customers include debt, rent arrears, an increased demand for smaller properties and housing transfers, budgeting and money management issues as households move onto Universal Credit and a higher risk of those in financial difficulties of becoming homeless. In order to limit the risk of homelessness arising from the changes brought about by welfare reforms, we will need to manage the impacts and work closely with our partner agencies.
To date, we have been proactive in addressing the impacts of the reforms and have trained staff so they are able to prepare, support and advise households affected by the changes. Customers are regularly referred to appropriate services, which provide financial and money advice about benefits, budgeting and debt management.
Domestic abuse remains a main cause of homelessness in the borough, with many presentations made by domestic abuse survivors. Households at risk of domestic abuse often have to leave their homes and the area they have lived. Alongside our role in tackling homelessness we also have an active role in identifying and referring victims for help and support.
Newcastle has a well-established multi agency response to domestic abuse and we are a key partner in local domestic violence partnerships and provide representation and support to the Newcastle Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC). We have also been successful in the receipt of a joint funding bid with Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Staffordshire Moorlands District Council as well as Glow. The funding has provided a joint domestic abuse housing advice advocate that operates across the three local authority areas plus units of supported accommodation in the private sector, again spread across the three local authority areas.
Improving the health and wellbeing of our customers
Housing has always had a significant role in helping to improve people's health, be it through the homelessness prevention work we deliver to the provision of grants and adaptations that enable people to stay in their own homes. These services have always been part of our role, however, historically there has been little co-ordination between the delivery of housing and health services. Local clinical commissioning groups are now responsible for the commissioning of healthcare services and local health and wellbeing boards are now responsible for determining their commissioning priorities.
The links between health and homelessness are recognised but there remain health inequalities for those that are homeless or insecurely housed. Our team at NHA are increasingly seeing more people with complex needs. Mental health, drug and alcohol services are vital, as are basic primary health care requirements such as being able to see a GP, health visitor or a dentist, and access routine health screening services. Further work could be investigated through joint working at the Vulnerability Hub.
The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 identifies the need for local authorities and their partners to develop clear housing pathways that include accommodation and support for key client groups. As a non-stock holding local authority it is clear that we can’t do this alone.
We acknowledge that for some of our most vulnerable customers a more bespoke pathway approach would benefit their journey from institutional and supported accommodation into more settled and sustainable long term accommodation. We have identified that at present the key client groups that would benefit most from a housing pathways approach are vulnerable adults with complex needs and young people.
Young people are particularly vulnerable and we will work with services that specialise in providing specialist support and assistance to young people. There is a Staffordshire-wide protocol for 16 and 17 year olds, that we are signed up to. However, we have a lack of emergency accommodation for this age group and will be looking at ways of increasing future provision. Effective joint working with Children's Services is crucial in assessing and supporting the often chaotic needs of young people.
Personal housing plans
As a local housing authority the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 requires us to carry out an assessment on all cases who are eligible. Following this assessment we must work with the customer who has applied for help, to agree actions to be taken by both parties to ensure that the person has and is able to retain suitable accommodation. Depending upon individual needs of the customer, the personal housing plans will include the involvement of a wide range of our partner agencies.
Duty to refer
The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 also places a duty on certain agencies to refer their customers if they are at risk of becoming homeless. This is to ensure that an individual’s housing situation is considered when they come into contact with wider public services. It should also encourage all of those involved in building stronger relationships based on local need and circumstances. Those with a duty include public authorities working in the criminal justice system, hospitals, social care services, job centres and the armed services.
Our work around developing sustainable housing pathways is an important element which also contributes to priority 1 - preventing homelessness.
Working in partnership to support the development of diversional activities, employment, skills and training
We recognise that employment, education, training and the development of skills all play a role in preventing homelessness. However it can be difficult for unemployed people to get back into work and even harder to get and hold down a job when homeless. During our consultation process our partners also identified that more needed to be done to support individuals into diversional activities which would result in doing something meaningful with their time, prior to entering more formal employment or education opportunities. The benefits of offering opportunities to learn new life skills, participate in activities can improve health and wellbeing whilst also addressing isolation. The development of opportunities for planned activities is something we are keen to see an increase of within the borough. Our partnership’s team is currently involved in a restorative justice pilot project which is working with partners to get people involved in a variety of worthwhile activities in the borough to fill their time.
Delivery of our strategic aims
The main forum to drive forward the aims, objectives and actions from this strategy is our Homelessness Forum. The forum is made up of strategic partners and stakeholders who provide accommodation and support services within the Borough. The forum acts as a platform to share good practice, information, improve approaches to working together and for us to provide direction on our strategic responsibilities. The forum also aids us with our commissioning requirements, as we are able to consult with partners over the development of future services based upon local needs.
Rough sleeper's action group
This is a long standing multi-agency group that comes together fortnightly with the aim of collectively working through solutions for individual rough sleepers across both Newcastle and Stoke on it. The group has a broad membership and is always well attended, members discuss the needs of individuals and produce targeted actions which support our rough sleepers off the streets. Each member is signed up to an information sharing agreement which enables intelligence to be shared across the group swiftly.
- challenge and resolve barriers to effective service delivery across the borough
- continue to work on the development and improvement of protocols and pathways with statutory and voluntary providers which will enhance access opportunities and prevent homelessness
- build on the current referral arrangements introduced under the duty to refer within the HRA to other agencies
- continue to develop joint working relationships, raise awareness of joint initiatives and when appropriate implement joint training
- ensure we continue to monitor and identify our local needs, and be able to feed these into future strategic plans
- work with those who deliver drug and alcohol services to ensure joined up support is in place
- ensure our homelessness services are accessible to all our customers and partners