As a key part of the Homelessness Reduction Act comes into force – what can we do to support it?

Housing associations of all sizes across the country – representing almost one million homes – have formalised their support for the Homelessness Reduction Act. It’s not too late to join them.

Catherine Ryder is Head of Policy at the National Housing Federation

Catherine Ryder is Head of Policy at the National Housing Federation

1 October 2018

Reducing homelessness is at the heart of our social purpose. Homeless acceptances have soared over recent years, and we are all rightly taking stock of what more we can do to help end this desperately sad situation. The implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act offers us the chance to formally support the critical work of local authorities.

A key part of the Act is the Duty to Refer – where named public bodies must notify the relevant local housing authority if they come into contact with someone they think may be homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

Housing associations are not bound by this duty. However, our members told us they wanted to support the Act, and local authorities and homelessness charities wanted housing associations to operate the Duty to Refer. So working with the Government, our members and local authorities, we developed our own offer – known as the Commitment to Refer – and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

A large number of housing associations – representing almost one million homes – have already signed up to the Commitment to Refer. Many more have committed to do so once they’ve had board approval.

If your housing association hasn’t yet signed up, then I urge you to do so. It will make an important contribution to identifying people who need help, but it also shows our commitment to playing our part in ending homelessness – not because we are bound by legislation or because the Government have told us to – but because it is what we exist for.

To help you implement the Commitment to Refer, we have also developed guidance, and you can contact us with any further queries. Thank you to everyone who has supported our sector in making this happen.

Going beyond the Commitment to Refer

But supporting the Act is about more than the Commitment to Refer. Local authorities need robust and effective partnerships in order to deliver their responsibilities set out in the Act.

That’s why the new guidance on the Commitment to Refer outlines several ways for housing associations to support the Act, and explains how else the sector can work to end homelessness.

It’s also why we’re working with the Local Government Association (LGA) to run a series of events in November and December, focusing on how local authorities and housing associations can best collaborate in their joint aim of ending homelessness.

Of course the Act on its own will not end homelessness. We need much more social housing, a thorough assessment of the impact of welfare reform on homelessness, and increased access to support. We will continue to push for these things. We should all also feel compelled to look at our own policies, to ensure we are doing all we can to bring homelessness to an end.

But today I am proud to launch our Commitment to Refer. It shows genuine cross-sector collaboration, working together to identify the people on the edge, helping to ensure they get the support they need as soon as they need it. Please sign up and take this small but important step with us.

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