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 The revised draft guidance is now open for consultation until 11 December 2017 and will be finalised for publication in spring 2018.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.