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Districts hit by new homelessness law

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The Homelessness Reduction Act has imposed fresh burdens that need government funding, the District Councils’ Network (DCN) has said.

It said the extra demand created would be unsustainable in the longer term without extra money.

The act took effect in April and requires councils to assess and assist everyone who is homeless or threatened with homelessness, not just those most in need. The lead-in time to get that help was extended from 28 to 56 days.

DCN said a survey showed more than half of districts had seen an increase in requests for help since April.

Only 21% felt the £73m allocated by the government to help implement the act was sufficient (57% said it was not, while 22% did not know), while 69% of respondents said they had recorded an increase in visible signs of homelessness.

In addition to unspecified extra funding, DCN called for greater financial flexibilities for councils that do not own housing to borrow to build homes.

It also said universal credit should be reviewed as this had removed direct rent payments to private landlords, who had reacted by demanding greater reassurance that claimants’ tenancies would be successful.

DCN chair John Fuller (Con) said: “The ongoing costs for new duties far outweigh the initial funding which isn’t enough on its own to address the lack of housing supply or the affordability issues affecting people in need, and can’t be sustained in the long-term.

“Providing additional, sustainable funding beyond 2019-20 through the funding formula will allow districts to continue to support homeless people or those at risk of becoming homeless over a longer time period.”

Cllr Fuller said the thresholds for accessing support services were now so high they had become “predominantly crisis-focused” and so did not deal with lower level issues that lead to homelessness.

 

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