If I’d been asked about devolution and its role in ending homelessness before I started working in housing, I’ll admit I wouldn’t have had a clue. But now I can confidently say that devolution is one of the most important tools we have for working together to reduce homelessness.
Sarah-Jane Gay is an External Affairs Manager for London and South East.
22 October 2018
Metro mayors of all colours have been able to use devolution to tell the story of their combined authority in central government, building a richer picture and encouraging more investment in homelessness across the country.
The key for housing associations is the new opportunities for funding and partnership working. Across combined authorities, new groups and taskforces have emerged that allow housing associations to be at the centre of reducing homelessness in their area.
For example, with Social Impact Bond funding, the Greater Manchester Housing Association Partnership (GMHAP) (along with two private-rented sector partners), have identified 270 homes to be used to house over 200 of Greater Manchester’s most entrenched rough sleepers, operating on an innovative ‘second chance’ ethos.
Meanwhile, Jean Templeton, Chief Executive of housing association St Basil’s, chairs the West Midlands Homelessness Taskforce, overseeing housing association, local authority, public services, and voluntary organisation partnerships working together to end homelessness in the West Midlands.
In the West of England, a new ‘Housing Package’ is being developed with ending homelessness as one of its key aims. And in the Liverpool City Region, housing associations took part in Housing First pilots, contributing homes for people with multiple and complex needs, for whom other solutions to their homelessness had failed.
Critical though they are, it’s not just about homes. It’s also about what devolution partnerships can achieve when developing new ways of working. As part of the Homelessness Reduction Act, the Ministry for Homes, Communities and Local Government approached housing associations to develop a ‘housing association commitment to refer’. Combined authority partnerships have taken this in their stride, with GMHAP even developing their own guidance around referral of households threatened with homelessness, and other combined authority groups quick to commit to housing associations playing a role in the Homelessness Reduction Act and beyond.
Devolution is just a tool. But it’s a tool that helps housing associations to work with each other and their combined authorities to provide homes and support, tell their story to central government, and identify innovative new ways of working.
It is the sheer determination of housing associations to partner, collaborate, and make the most of devolution, that is part of how we will end homelessness once and for all.
At the National Housing Federation, we promise to help housing associations influence devolution to create the best possible environment for social housing and your customers. The devolution hub is at the heart of how we will deliver on this.