Homelessness & Rough Sleeping Strategy 2024 - 2029
4. Theme One: Preventing Homelessness
4.1 Prevention of homelessness underpins the Vision of this Strategy. Dating back as far as 2002, when the Government's publication 'More than a roof' first began the refocus of homelessness services from process to prevention; there has been a consistent aim for the delivery of solution-based outcomes which, in many cases, avoid the need for households to make a homelessness application.
4.2 Today, statutory homelessness support is delivered through the most radical change to legislation this century implemented in the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, which makes preventing homelessness a legal duty owed to anyone who is eligible that approaches the Council seeking help.
4.3 We need to identify and assist people at higher risk of homelessness much earlier than the statutory guideline, which is 56 days or less before homelessness is likely to occur. A strong partnership with other organisations is critical to reach more people where there are early signs of a housing problem and resolve these before homelessness becomes a real possibility.
4.4 We need to give people clear information, so that there is an increased understanding about the realities of housing options locally so that people can help themselves but also know where to go for advice when needed.
4.5 We need to make sure that other organisations and departments of the Council, including both adults' and children's services, health services, job centres, criminal justice services, voluntary agencies and housing providers have a good understanding of the warning signs of housing need and are equipped with the tools to encourage self-help, give basic early advice or easily signpost, refer and support people to contact the Housing Service.
4.6 With partners we need to find ways to identify those at risk, promote advice and information and then work together with partners to develop creative polices and services, for example, for families, victims of domestic abuse, care leavers and people leaving hospital or mental health units. We will support people to easily help themselves at times of need but also ensure holistic safety nets are in place and robust enough to respond as needed to prevent homelessness wherever possible.
4.7 The Review Update (Appendix 2 para 4.2.2) confirms that, locally, the four main reasons that people become homeless or at risk of homelessness are; the ending of a private sector tenancy, family or friends no longer being willing or able to accommodate, being a victim of domestic abuse or eviction from supported housing.
4.8 In line with Local Government Association best practice guidance the Council will establish a Homelessness and Rough Sleeper Action Board. Actions will include development of sub-taskforce groups which will include statutory and non-statutory stakeholders both internal and external and people who use the service. These sub-taskforce groups will support development of particular prevention pathways.
In relation to Preventing Homelessness we will;
- Strengthen data recording and the use of data to improve our understanding and analysis of homelessness, including repeat homelessness, to enable better forecasts of future demand and the focused use of prevention toolkits.
- Review and improve information provided through the Council's website, and through partner organisations, to promote easy access to advice and self-serve help.
- Establish a Homelessness and Rough Sleeper Action Board to include a rolling programme of forums with local agencies to deliver briefings and training on homelessness services and to facilitate sharing of information and ideas.
- Provide social, private and supported housing providers with information on locally available services and promote the Council's role in negotiation, planning and averting homelessness.
- Review single homelessness accommodation pathways and protocols with local health professionals and probation services to encourage and promote improved referral pathways and support for people leaving either custody or hospital where mental health and / or addictions are an issue.
- Review and strengthen the 'toolkit' of homelessness prevention initiatives available for front line housing advisors and local agencies.
- Incorporate health and wider outcomes into the evaluation of homelessness prevention toolkits.
- Monitor the duty to refer protocol for effectiveness and adherence and establish closer working with agencies to improve referral processes where a person may be at risk of homelessness.
- Support the objectives set out in the Council's 'Strategy to Address & Reduce Domestic Abuse 2021 – 2026' to prevent homelessness where individuals want to remain in their own homes.
- Complete the operating model review of Housing Services and implement a restructure of staffing to enable effective delivery of homelessness prevention.