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It's the law

September 05 2018
The Homelessness Reduction Act gives Local authorities new opportunities and challenges to support people who are affected by homelessness. So is it working, asks Martin Burrows from Groundswell

The new Homelessness Reduction Act gives Local authorities new opportunities and challenges to support people who are affected by homelessness. So is it working?

The Homelessness Reduction Act (the Act) which came into force in April this year, places new legal duties on English Local Authorities to give everyone who is homeless or at risk of homelessness access to meaningful help. While Priority Need, Local Connection and being judged Intentionally Homeless have not been abolished altogether, they are only applied in order to help assess people’s entitlement to certain parts of the new provision.

The new framework began as a Private Member’s Bill introduced to Parliament in June 2017 by Bob Blackman, backbench Conservative MP for Harrow East, following the In On the Act campaign led by Crisis. The Act places new duties on local authorities, encouraging housing teams to act quickly and proactively, and should allow housing authorities more time to do prevention work.

Until the Act came in, most prevention and relief work undertaken by local authority housing teams sat outside a legal framework. This has led to many single homeless people receiving only limited support. Under the Act, all eligible people who are found to be homeless or threatened with homelessness will be entitled to more tailored support from the housing teams, regardless of priority need and intentionality.

Support to prevent homelessness is available to everyone regardless of local connection.

At Groundswell, we’ve been commissioned by Crisis, the national charity for homeless people, to conduct fieldwork on a research project looking at how the roll-out of the Act is going. The research will take place over three years and will see us conduct 600 interviews a year with people who have visited local authority housing teams since April, across six areas of England. We hope that this will create a picture of how the new law is impacting on people who are facing homelessness.

One of the key challenges faced by local authorities will be the lack of resources needed to effect the changes in services that the bill demands. The Government has committed £72.7 million over three years to help local authorities meet the “new burdens” placed on them by the Act. However, wider structural issues like the shortage of available accommodation will provide significant obstacles, particularly in and around London and many other urban areas.

This article is being written in July and it’s too early to tell the effect that the Act will have on homeless people, but the local authorities we have been in contact with so far seem to be embracing the changes. The Pavement will keep you posted on the research as we begin to understand how it is impacting people affected by homelessness.

 

In a nutshell

The Homeless Reduction Act became law in April 2018. Local Authorities now have new duties to support applicants to the housing office who are homeless or threatened with homelessness. There are still criteria about who is eligible for support, but local connection no longer applies to people who go to the council for advice or to prevent themselves being made homeless.

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