Government review of the Homelessness Reduction Act

08 October 2020

The government has published its response to submissions to its call for evidence on the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 (the Act), alongside an independent evaluation of the implementation of the Act. The evidence was gathered before the coronavirus period.

The main conclusions of the evaluation were:

  • Half of the 224 English councils surveyed raised the lack of affordable housing as a significant challenge they faced in responding to the Act. This was a concern for 68% of London boroughs and 40% of other local authorities.
  • The administrative burden was the second most common challenge, followed by the difficulties of working with the H-CLIC data system.
  • Remaining challenges were insufficient funding or the uncertainty of future funding and meeting the needs of service users with more or different support needs.
  • Joint working and the duty to refer worked best where pre-existing connections between local authorities and public bodies were already in place.

In response to the concerns raised, the government has made commitments, including:

  • To explore how to improve joint working,
  • Further promote and potentially extend the ‘Duty to Refer’.
  • To promote best practice and undertake a review of the new burdens funding.
  • Continue to encourage voluntary referrals from social landlords by working with the NHF to promote the Commitment to Refer.

The government will consider separately the points raised around affordable housing supply, welfare reform, access to the private rented sector and access to healthcare services, which it says is beyond the remit of the review.

Our original recommendations

The NHF responded to the call for evidence in 2019. Housing associations do not have statutory duties under the Act, but homelessness prevention is a very relevant subject for housing associations, many of whom have signed up to the voluntary Commitment to Refer and are working hard to prevent evictions through tenancy sustainment support.

Social housing is the most common exit route out of homelessness. Since 2007, housing associations have housed more than 390,000 statutorily homeless households. They have also housed nearly 268,000 ‘other’ homeless households in the same period, mostly in supported housing (CORE data, MHCLG, 2007/08-2017/18). Housing associations provide 76% of all supported accommodation for single homeless people, 75% of accommodation for people with drug and alcohol needs, 73% for those at risk of domestic abuse, and 66% for homeless families (DWP and DLCG (2016) Supported Accommodation Review).

NHF members therefore had relevant experience to feed into the call for evidence.

Our original recommendations were:

  • The Act would be much more impactful if it were properly resourced. The level of burdens funding allocated to local authorities needs to be determined by evidence of actual costs submitted by local authorities.
  • The Act needs be strengthened for those at immediate risk of rough sleeping and those with complex needs. It should be amended to guarantee the right to a safe place to stay for those at immediate risk of sleeping rough.
  • The government should carry out a review of the Duty to Refer. This may lead to additional public authorities being included, and potentially result in a new Duty to co-operate, to improve collaboration between partners. The sector would also like to see a single referral form used across local authorities.
  • More broadly, the government must tackle the root causes of homelessness – lack of supply, welfare and support.

We are pleased to see that some of our original recommendations are reflected in the government review. Our analysis of the government’s review and the evidence in the independent evaluation in the light of the above recommendations shows that although some progress has been made on homelessness prevention, the issues brought up by the review largely align with our original recommendations.

You can read more about our calls for investment in welfare, supply and support in our Spending Review submission.

Who to speak to

Suzannah Young, Policy Officer