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The Homeless Reduction Act introduced additional powers and duties for Local Authorities for the prevention and relief of Homelessness.

The Housing Act 1996 (as amended) states the duties and powers on Local Authorities of which will all still be applicable however some of the main changes are the introduction of Prevention and Relief Duties.

The prevention duty gives a duty to assess all applicants regardless of Local Connection and issue them with a decision as to whether they are threatened with homelessness within 56 days and eligible and if so a duty is triggered to complete a Personalised Housing Plan (PHP). The PHP’s must be completed after completing an assessment of the applicant’s needs, detailing what the applicant must do and what the Local Authority will do in an attempt to prevent their homelessness.
 
This duty will last for a 56 days period and if the applicant homelessness cannot be prevented the Relief duty is triggered. The relief duty is triggered when an applicant actually becomes homeless and lasts for 56 days where the same process for completing a PHP must be completed again under the relief duty. If at the end of the 56 day period the applicants homelessness cannot be relieved, we have an obligation to issue a s184 decision under Part VI of the Housing Act 1996 in the same way that is currently completed (Not Homeless, Not Eligible, Not in Priority Need, Intentionally Homeless, No Local Connection or a duty accept).

The act introduces a joint relationship between Local Authorities and applicants to find suitable accommodation for applicants. The act introduced the opportunity to discharge relief duty into the Private Rented Sector (PRS) as it has been acknowledged that Social Housing is not always available due to the level of stock and availability. This is in addition to the changes previously introduced in 'The Localism Act 2011' which introduced the opportunity to discharge the main duty into the PRS in order to meet the demand for housing.

The introduction of the HRA has had an impact on the time taken dealing with a case, the number of cases each caseworker has, as well as the impact on our emergency and temporary accommodation as applicants could be in TA a lot longer than previously. This is mainly due to those cases that cannot be prevented or relieved as no main duty can be accepted to an applicant until the 56 day relief duty has ended. LA’s have the responsibility to provide TA during the full relief duty and beyond should a main duty be owed.
 
The Rough Sleeper Initiatives Strategy was published in the Autumn of 2018 and although hasn’t given the Local Authority any additional powers in relation to legislation, it has made funding available. The Government has committed to halving Rough Sleeping in this parliament and to end it for good by 2027. This is a big ask particularly as this in some rare cases it is a life style choice, we also need to consider the lack of services available to assist this cohort as many will have complex needs that may not have acknowledged previously as they have been masked by self-medication in respect of drugs and alcohol.

We completed a funding bid for a Rough Sleeper Co-coordinator and Support worker post which was successful. The project is funded for one year and this role will engage with the Town’s Rough Sleepers to support them into sustainable housing, with the objective being to halve the Towns Rough Sleeper population. The Support worker will liaise with both internal and external teams to achieve this.

Overall, the Act builds on the existing provisions of Part 7 of the 1996 Housing Act (as amended by Homelessness Act 2002), in that it extends our duties to those who are homeless and focuses on prevention. The key changes brought about by the Act include:

  • Improving the advice and information available about homelessness and the prevention of homelessness.
  • Extending the period ‘threatened with homelessness from 28 days to 56 days’.
  • Introducing new duties to prevent and relieve homelessness for all eligible people, regardless of priority need, intentionality (and local connection).
  • Introducing assessments and Personal Housing Plans setting out the actions authorities and individuals will take to secure accommodation.
  • Encouraging public bodies to work together to prevent and relieve homelessness through a Duty to Refer, which commenced in October 2018.
Three main aims of the Homeless Reduction Act
Prevention Duty Relief Duty Original Main Duty
56 day minimum - take 'reasonable steps to help applicant to secured accommodation does not cease to be available' (s.4) 56 days - take 'reasonable steps to help applicant secure suitable accommodation that becomes available' (s.5) Full housing duty. The duty a council has towards homeless applicants, who are homeless, eligible for assistance, in priority need and is not intentionally homeless

 

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