Homelessness & Rough Sleeping Strategy 2024 - 2029
1.1 Bedford Borough Council's (the Council) Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy for 2024 - 2029 (the Strategy) has been developed during a period of unprecedented uncertainty. The currently known housing and homelessness influences will shape the detail of this Strategy, but at the same time it must be flexible, to allow the Council to respond to a challenging, unpredictable and constantly changing operating environment.
1.2 There have been significant changes in national policy since the publication of the last Homelessness Strategy 2016 – 2021. The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 was introduced in April 2018, with the aim of offering more assistance to single people and to improve prevention of homelessness through placing this within a statutory framework which gives more focus and opportunity for families and individuals to be supported to remain in their homes. This change is one of the most significant in homelessness law in 40 years. At the same time, the Government announced a cross-departmental priority to focus on ending rough sleeping.
1.3 Our Strategy addresses all forms of homelessness including rough sleeping. It is important to ensure homelessness, in whatever form it presents itself is tackled in a holistic way by the actions set out in the Strategy.
1.4 More resources have been made available by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC) to support our work to prevent homelessness for families, single people and to end rough sleeping.
1.5 The Strategy aims to consolidate some of the positive progress the Council has made as well as focus on better meeting customer's needs and changing, where possible, what's not been working well, through identifying and addressing barriers to continual improvement.
1.6 In line with the requirements of the Homelessness Act 2002 and the Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities, we will focus on the key themes of;
- Preventing homelessness with intervention at the earliest possible points
- Ensuring sufficient supply of accommodation
- Providing support and help to aid recovery for those that need it
1.7 The delivery of actions coming out of this Strategy will be set in the context of the resources available to the Council. It is also important to recognise that local authorities and Government cannot always fully understand or predict the medium and longer-term effects of global and financial impacts on housing and homelessness. We know that we need to ensure the Action Plan (at Section 8 of this Strategy), is continually reviewed and when needed, can be updated or changed in response to new trends or circumstances as a result of unforeseen emergencies and any major economic and policy drivers.
1.8 Effective partnership working lies at the heart of all successful homelessness prevention services. The vision set out in the Government report 'Making Every Contact Count' published back in 2012 sums up what is still the priority focus today:
"…the visions of this report is simple, but bold. There is no place for homelessness in the 21st century. The key to delivering that vision is prevention – agencies working together to support those at risk of homelessness"
Source: Department for Communities and Local Government Making every contact count - foreword from The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP – Minister for Housing 2010 to 2012
1.9 In August 2018, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government published the first 'Rough Sleeper Strategy', which highlighted a need for stronger accountability and consulted on the use of local 'Homelessness Reductions Boards'. Homelessness Reduction Boards, if established, could be an opportunity to increase the commitment of a variety of public bodies to the review and delivery of a local homelessness strategy.
1.10 The more recent Government Strategy 'Ending Rough Sleeping for Good' published in September 2022 maintains this vision;
"By taking a holistic view of the problem, by focusing on prevention and by looking at the causes as well as the symptoms, it sets out how everyone – from central government, local leaders, rough sleeper coordinators, health workers, social workers, volunteers, prison workers and housing officers – can work together to not only get people off the streets, but stop them ending up there in the first place"
Source: Department of Levelling Up, Housing & Communities Ending Rough Sleeping for Good – foreword from Eddie Hughes MP – Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing 2021 to 2022
1.11 The scope of the Strategy is therefore wider than the services delivered directly by the Council. It supports the delivery of services within other public services, including adult and children's social services, health and criminal justice agencies, Registered Providers (RPs also known as housing associations) and voluntary sector organisations.
1.12 The Councils Homelessness and Health – Executive Summary published in 2018 by the Director of Public Health set out an independent report focused on improving the health of the people of Bedford Borough and made recommendations to address the public health challenges of homelessness, in order to better prevent homelessness and improve the health of homeless people. The report highlights homeless people being more likely to have poor physical and mental health, and people with physical and mental health problems are more vulnerable to becoming homeless. The recommendations made in the report need to continue to be taken forward in the Strategy.
1.13 The Council has recently formed a new Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Board whose work will be of significant importance in driving the Strategy Action Plan forward.
1.14 We have used local and national data, other information, and feedback to review homelessness in Bedford Borough.
The Aims of the Strategy
1.15 As a priority, our aim has to be to increase our focus on preventing homelessness occurring in the first place. This is the best outcome for people at risk of homelessness living in Bedford Borough. It also makes good financial sense for the Council and other public sector agencies locally to prevent homelessness, because the cost of homelessness and its wider impacts on other services is high. At present, our limited resources have unavoidably been spent assisting people once the crisis of homelessness has already happened. For some single people, this can be at the point they are on the edge of, or are already, rough sleeping. Our objective is to turn that around and help people earlier by directing our focus on preventing homelessness.
1.16 It is also important to break the cycle of insecure housing and repeat homelessness and continue to assist those who do become homeless, so that they can find a home and, where needed, offer them support to make sure they do not experience homelessness again.
The Scope of the Strategy
1.17 The Strategy aims to ensure homelessness is addressed at whatever stage or circumstance people are in. It covers single people and couples without children, young people and families who:
- Want or need general advice about housing options.
- Are at risk of homelessness in the future.
- Are already homeless.
- Are currently rough sleeping.
- Are staying in temporary accommodation.
Other Strategies and Plans
1.18 Delivery of this Strategy relies on maintaining links and aligning action plans with other relevant Strategies, to ensure tackling homelessness is supported across the Council. By making the best use of available resources, we can avoid duplication, ensuring the efficient and effective delivery of services and streamlining the journey for residents who are homeless or at risk of homelessness now and in the future.
1.19 The table below lists the Council's other strategies, policies and plans which are referenced in this Strategy and its Action Plan;
Due for review
Housing Strategy 2021 - 2026
Housing Allocation Scheme
Empty Homes Strategy 2019 - 2024
Strategy to Address & Reduce Domestic Abuse 2021 - 2026
Local Plan 2030
Emerging Local Plan 2040
Homelessness and Health; Director of Public Health Report 2018