The Homelessness Reduction Act comes into effect on 1 April and with it comes the biggest changes to homeless legislation for years.
A new statutory duty means councils will be required to help prevent people from losing their home and take steps to help secure accommodation for people who are, or become, homeless.
Councils will need to provide free advice and guidance on homeless prevention, assess and agree personalised support plans for all applicants and ensure steps are taken to prevent homelessness and retain accommodation.
It is widely acknowledged that the new duties, alongside raised awareness, will result in increased demand. While estimates vary, indications from council pilots, alongside predictions from across London boroughs and learning from Wales, anticipate a rise in demand between 50% and 70%.
Councils have been busy taking steps to prepare, ensuring high quality information and advice is accessible online and frontline staff are trained to help customers early in the process.
Adopting online assessment systems will help manage demand, clean up processes, remove inefficiencies and generate channel shift. Taking a fresh look at data to understand the drivers behind existing demand will help with resource planning and deal with demand spikes.
However, in the current climate of rising demand and financial constraints, tackling prevention in the context of homelessness and housing alone is not enough. Councils we are working with are increasingly focused on developing long-term transformation strategies centred on a fundamental redesign of what they do and how they work with others.
From a prevention perspective this requires councils, with partners across all sectors, to boldly rethink how they tackle issues and problems early on, integrate service areas such as housing, social care, employment, money and wellbeing and build greater community resilience by enabling people to do more for themselves.
As a transformation partner to several councils, Agilisys is starting to see exciting and innovative approaches emerging. Barking & Dagenham LBC, for example, has recently launched a new service called Community Solutions. It aims to help people to help themselves by identifying and tackling the root cause of complex issues.
The response to the Homelessness Reduction Act and indeed other reform such as universal credit needs to be compliant and timely. However, it is imperative that councils, with partners, grasp the opportunity for radical reform of services to ensure they are best placed to meet future challenges.
Rhodri Rowlands, principal consultant, Agilisys
Column sponsored and supplied by Agilisys