Looking at the successes and challenges of the Homelessness Reduction Act one year on.
Jeremy Gray is Chief Executive at Evolve Housing and Support
25 July 2019
At Evolve, we fully support the benefits that the Homelessness Reduction Act (HRA) aims to achieve for the homeless people that we work with. We are working in partnership with local authorities to fulfil it, particularly in respect of routes to moving on from supported accommodation to live independently, as well as the prevention of street homelessness through earlier intervention in tenancy loss and/or breakdown.
Our experience of its implementation is varied
It is well documented that the funding available to local authorities to implement the Act is low, which causes significant challenge. Generally, local authorities have done a variable amount of preparation, with some putting plans in place for the configuration of housing services whilst others are absorbing the new duties into existing procedures due to the limited resources available.
The way local authorities approach the HRA differs too – with some stating explicit support and commitment to it and its measures, and others viewing it simply as another thing they have to do.
The duty and Commitment to refer fits well into the way we work and what we aim to achieve for our customers. We provide supported housing for vulnerable and homeless people and therefore we’re fulfilling our duty to refer by notifying Housing Options teams as soon as there is a risk to tenancy, and when tenancy end dates are approaching.
The challenges we are facing
Our customers’ experiences of the HRA are also mixed, and often depend on the borough in which they are supported. We are encountering a lack of assessment and housing planning at an early enough stage to be able to move them on independently in the timeframes within their tenancy agreements with us, but we are looking to work more closely with local authorities to improve this.
We are also still seeing cases where our customers are being advised by local authority housing teams that they cannot ‘present’ until the day of eviction from current accommodation, where there has been a lack of response in relation to the need for a housing assessment. For the Act to truly meet its aims, resources must be made by local authorities to allow them to train their staff on the new duties and what they mean in practice. In time, this will allow for much more meaningful partnership working to develop.
Looking ahead – how we can improve partnership working
There is also still work that needs to be done to raise awareness of the HRA amongst the general public, to ensure that people know what their rights are, and how to advocate for themselves. The funding being made available to services such as local Citizens Advice to provide housing advice about the HRA to people in housing need is a real step forward in this, and we hope to see the benefits in the coming months.
The HRA has the power to radically reduce homelessness, and we look forward to our continued work with all relevant agencies and partners to make it happen.
We welcome the HRA and continue to do all we can to end homelessness, but partnerships are key. This is why the Commitment to Refer is so important, raising awareness and building further partnerships with local authorities.
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