Deborah Garvie
Deborah Garvie

By Deborah Garvie

Homelessness Reduction Act 2017: we’d like your examples of personalised housing plans

The Homelessness Reduction Act, due to come into force next April, will result in personalised housing plans becoming an important part of statutory homelessness assistance. Ahead of a forthcoming Shelter publication on homelessness assessment and personalised housing plans, we’re calling for examples of personalised housing plans already developed and used by local authorities.

The Homelessness Reduction Act comes into force next April and is one of the biggest changes to homeless legislation for 15 years.

Local housing authorities, and others who work with people threatened with homelessness, now have six months to gear up for what is expected to be a very big change in how people are helped.

For the uninitiated, the crux of the new legislation will be a new duty on councils to assess and ‘take reasonable steps’ to help all those who are threatened with homelessness/homeless and eligible for assistance.

This is a big improvement on current homelessness legislation, which restricts council duties to provide assistance to where they are satisfied that a homeless and eligible applicant has a priority need and did not become homeless intentionally.

The new duties should make a big difference to homeless people who are not currently entitled to help – especially those not considered a priority, which includes the most adults without children.

The Act will require councils to clearly set out in writing what steps they will take to help people, along with any steps the applicant should reasonably take themselves. These documents are commonly referred to as a personalised housing plan.

This is a major breakthrough. We have argued for many years that people need to know what the council will do to help them keep their home, or find a suitable alternative as quickly as possible, in order to have confidence that their needs have been understood.  We regularly see people who come away from a visit to the council without any written confirmation of what assessment has been made or what help the council will provide.

The Government hopes that through this more individualised approach, local housing authorities will be more effective in preventing and alleviating homelessness.  It believes it will result in councils responding more effectively to individual circumstances and by providing more tailored support.

We want councils to get this right.  So, supported by the Longleigh Foundation, over the summer we’ve been speaking to the experts: people who have personal experience of homelessness and approaching the council for help.

They’ve been explaining to us what opportunities were missed to help them sooner, what service they expected when they turned to the council for help and how this measured up to the reality, and what they would like to see when the Act comes into force.  A number of common themes have emerged.

We’ve also been working closely with colleagues at Shelter Cymru to find out how what can be learnt from the introduction of assessment and personalised plans in Wales two years ago, as well as gathering examples of personalised plans already being used by English councils – both good and bad.

We’re keen to hear from local housing authorities and advice agencies which have developed or come across examples of personalised housing plans to inform our final recommendations to be published next month.

So please email any information to me: deborahg@shelter.org.uk.

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