Homelessness Code of Guidance – we want your views

The Homelessness Reduction Act recently became law and is due to be enacted in April 2018.

The Draft Homelessness Code of Guidance provides direction on how local authorities should meet the requirements of homelessness legislation and has been updated to include information on the Homelessness Reduction Act.  The revised draft guidance is now open for consultation until 11 December 2017 and will be finalised for publication in spring 2018.

NHC will be submitting a response to the consultation. Given the knowledge of NHC Members in supporting people experiencing homelessness, we would welcome your views and expertise to inform our submission, particularly on the following questions:

The guidance outlines that advisory services must be designed to meet the needs of persons in the authority’s district. What information could be included in the guidance to ensure that the content of the information provided via these advisory services, and the way it is delivered, is appropriate for different groups of people who are at risk of homelessness? (Sections 3.4-3.5)

The duty to refer requires public bodies to identify people threatened with or experiencing homelessness and pass information on to the housing authority (with the individual’s consent). How this works in practice is to be determined at a local level, but what guidance could be included about how public bodies can identify people who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness, and how public bodies should work together to share information? (Chapter 4)

Housing authorities will be required to conduct assessments and develop personalised housing plans, developing a positive and collaborative approach towards applicants. Assessments will include assessment of an individual’s support needs. What guidance could be offered to housing authorities to ensure that an assessment of support needs is effective and that applicants are empowered to disclose information?  (Sections 11.2, 11.11)

People can be penalised if they ‘deliberately and unreasonably’ refuse to co-operate with the housing authority. Do you think it is clear from the guidance what it means to deliberately and unreasonably refuse to co-operate and how housing authorities will ensure particular groups who may find it difficult to co-operate are not penalised?  (Sections 14.41-14.51)

Applicants can review decisions made by the housing authority. What information could be included to ensure a review process is fair? (Chapter 19)

The guidance includes specific sections on providing homelessness services for people who have experienced domestic violence or abuse (Chapter 21), care leavers (Chapter 22), people in contact with the criminal justice system (Chapter 23) and guidance on modern slavery and trafficking in relation to applicants who are threatened with homelessness or homeless (Chapter 25). Do you think there is any specific information that should be removed or added to these sections?

Please contact Karen Brown by 4th December 2017 with any views you would like to share with us on these issues, to ensure the Code of Guidance supports local authorities effectively to discharge their duties.

GuestBlog: Ward Hadaway brief — consultation on draft homelessness code of guidance

DCLG publishes consultation on draft homelessness code of guidance

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has published a draft statutory code of guidance which will accompany the Homelessness Reduction Act (HRA), due to come into force in April 2018.

The DCLG has now published a revised draft the Homelessness Code of Guidance (“Code”) for consultation ahead of publication of the final Code in spring 2018. The Code is aimed at local authorities to ensure they intervene earlier in order to prevent families and individuals becoming homeless in the first place and also sets out how councils should be implementing the HRA when it comes into force.

What will the new act require?

The new HRA places duties on local authorities to try and prevent homelessness in their districts by intervening at earlier stages. Housing authorities are also required to provide their homelessness services to all of those affected, without the need to consider whether the applicant has ‘priority need’.

These new duties include:

  • Free information and advice on preventing and alleviating homelessness to all residents within the local authority.
  • The prevention duty is doubled from 28 to 56 days for households that are threatened with homelessness.
  • Those who are already homeless now will receive help in securing accommodation for 56 days from local authorities.

How will the implementation of the HRA be funded?

The total amount of funding now available for local authorities to implement the HRA is £72.7 million. An increase of £11.7 million was injected into the fund after discussions with local authorities on the resources that would be required to implement the HRA. This funding is to be shared across local authorities for two years to meet the cost of implementing the HRA.

Funding of £3 million is also being provided so as to allow local authorities to upgrade their data systems, enabling local authorities to assess more accurately how the HRA is changing homelessness prevention in their districts.

This comes on top of, and in addition to, a Government investment of £550 million until 2020 to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping. Minister for Homelessness, Marcus Jones, has said “the guidance and Government funding will support [local authorities] in making sure people will get the help they need earlier to prevent them becoming homeless in the first place”.

The draft Code and consultation

The draft Code aims to provide guidance on how authorities should fulfill their statutory duties under the HRA and exercise their functions and services relating to homelessness. The draft Code, if published in its current form, will streamline guidance from 268 to 170 pages. Dependant on its final form, it remains to be seen whether this makes the legislation clearer and more accessible.

Whilst the Code is geared towards local authorities, it is still of direct relevance to registered providers as they are required to co-operate with housing authorities in exercising their homelessness functions.

The consultation is seeking views and responses on the draft Code and the new duties local authorities will be subject to including:

  • Ensuring information and advice about homelessness is available at no cost to all residents within the local authority;
  • Producing a personalised plan, if the authority is satisfied that the applicant is homeless or threatened with homelessness and are also eligible for assistance;
  • Providing advisory services to all applicants, not just priority applicants, including those considered ‘intentionally homeless’;
  • Securing suitable accommodation for homeless applicants, or supporting applicants vulnerable of homelessness to stay in their current home, whenever possible.

The 8-week consultation closes on 11 December 2017 and a final version of the Code will be published in spring 2018. Free training on the HRA is also being provided by the Government for local authority staff up until April 2018.

If you have any questions on the above and how it will affect social housing providers, or any other questions as a social housing provider, please do not hesitate to contact John Murray, Social Housing Partner, Ward Hadaway.

Guestblog: Support your digital transformation with centralised software procurement from COMPAREX


As housing associations battle reduced government subsidies and increased regulatory requirements, they face an uphill struggle to increase productivity without a significant outlay. One way in which organisations are looking to increase output and reduce expenditure is through digital transformation.

By updating processes related to IT and procurement, housing associations and housing groups in local government can also make substantial savings.

Reduce expenditure by taking stock

Digital transformation relies on the use of new technologies, software and services, delivered on-premise or via the cloud, to modernise and simplify business operations. The growth of the cloud has also enabled employees to communicate and collaborate from wherever they are – whether conducting inventories or inspecting new properties – which is particularly important for modern housing associations and groups that are often spread across different locations.

However, while adopting new technologies can drive down expenditure, procuring, managing and maintaining the subsequent software licences inefficiently, can erode any cost savings. Therefore, reviewing software use frequently is essential for housing associations.

To do this comprehensively and ensure they maximise the benefits of digitalisation, housing groups may need to enlist expertise from outside the organisation. After all, the prowess of housing associations lies in providing social housing for tenants, not detangling the complexity associated with software licensing.

Get secure support from a proven track record

Having just a single software provider can hugely reduce the complexity associated with software procurement and licensing. Additionally by enlisting a global partner, taking advantage of its global footprint and network of distributors may provide the best sourcing option, agreement option and agreement type suited to the organisation’s specific needs.

With a trusted and knowledgeable partner, housing associations can ensure they stay compliant with industry regulations, do not fall foul of licensing T&Cs, and reduce the cost and legwork associated with digital transformation.

Our offer to NHC members

The NHC has teamed up with COMPAREX to offer their members a significant discount on a Proof-of-Value exercise for the Portfolio Management Platform. This ‘health-check’ for your organisation will provide a valuable insight into your organisation’s use of software, licencing of software, security risks and potential savings. It will provide you with reports and data around where your organisation can make considerable cost reductions and how to eliminate security risk. For further details download our flyer.

To take advantage of COMPAREX’s procurement services, and to support your digital transformation as part of the Northern Housing Consortium’s Business Improvement Services, please contact Nigel Johnston.

NHC response to Planning for the Right Homes in the Right Places

The Northern Housing Consortium (NHC) has responded to Government proposals to reform the planning system to increase the supply of new homes and increase local authority capacity to manage growth.  The full consultation response is available here.

The proposals are focused on providing the potential for greater pace, simplicity, and transparency in the planning process.  We support this; however, the supply of the right homes in the right places needs to have recognition of the planning system as a significant driver of economic growth and quality of life through its importance in place-making.

We support a streamlined and simplified process, but we are concerned that a standard approach as a way of calculating local housing need will not allow for the complexity and unique needs of local housing markets, which vary significantly from place to place.  For many parts of the North, we believe the standard methodology will create challenges with the alignment between housing need and economic growth and regeneration.

The NHC hosts Alok Sharma tenant engagement programme

Alok Sharma talks to tenants

On 26th October, the Northern Housing Consortium facilitated landlord and tenant engagement sessions with Alok Sharma, Minister of State for Housing and Planning, alongside colleagues from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

Representatives from around 30 NHC members attended the meeting for landlords, and the tenant engagement event attracted more than 80 residents from a cross section of providers in the North East and Yorkshire and Humber. A separate North West event was hosted by Community Gateway Association in Preston.  The Minister was fully involved in the lively and well received session, both addressing and sitting with tenants to listen to their concerns and ideas. At the start of the session, NHC Deputy Chief Executive Tracy Harrison described this as a “golden opportunity to make your voice heard” which the Minister agreed with, encouraging the audience to be as frank as possible.

Discussions between tenants and the Minister covered a wide variety of topics including tenant voice, funding and investment, quality of stock and recognition of local issues. At the end of the session, Mr Sharma promised to write to each of the attendees in person and told them their comments, views and ideas would be used to shape the upcoming  Social Housing Green Paper, “setting out what we’ve learned [from the sessions] and what needs to change.”

“At the end of my time as Housing Minister, I want to feel that I’ve done my part to get fairness back into the social housing system” Mr Sharma said while also mentioning a desire to “invest in modular housing similar to those made in Germany and Scandinavia” and the importance of incentivising private landlords to provide longer tenancies.

Commenting on the event, Tracy Harrison said “The NHC was delighted to facilitate this event with the Minister and his team at DCLG. The event presented our members and their residents with a real opportunity to discuss how they feel about where they live, and how services are provided to them by their landlord. I was particularly encouraged by the acknowledgement that local decision making can play a part in reconnecting isolated or fragmented communities — these are issues we know are key to our members — and we look forward to seeing how this shapes the Social Housing Green Paper next year.”