How the National Homelessness Advice Service is helping housing professionals support those in need

How the National Homelessness Advice Service is helping housing professionals support those in need

At Shelter, we provide a wide range of services to help tackle the housing emergency. One of these is the National Homelessness Advice Service (NHAS), which we have been running for 27 years. Funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, NHAS works to prevent homelessness through the provision of free expert advice, training and support to frontline professionals.

‘We offer expert information to professionals in order to equip them to better help those in need,’ says Andy Nutley, NHAS Consultancy Line team manager. ‘We provide advice on all aspects of housing issues and welfare benefits, particularly the Universal Credit housing element and housing benefits.’

NHAS doesn’t just work with housing specialists, we advise other local authority staff, such as social services. We also provide advice to public authorities such as prisons, probation services, health teams, and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), as well as working with Local Citizens Advice in England and other voluntary advice agencies. ‘We should be able to support anyone who is giving free-to-access housing, housing debt, and welfare benefit advice to the public,’ Andy said.

NHAS provides impartial advice on a wide range of housing and homelessness issues, including housing debt and welfare benefits via our Consultancy Line and web chat. NHAS can also help professionals with their complex cases, providing clarification on housing law. 

We provide face-to-face training (although this is currently on hold due to the outbreak of coronavirus), as well as bitesize e-learning and webinar training on a variety of housing topics such as Local Authority Homelessness Duties, Assured Shorthold Tenancies, Social Housing and Allocations, Domestic Violence, and Welfare Reform.

Practical guides on issues such as exiting homeownership, housing options for offenders, and ex-service personnel can be found on the NHAS website. We also provide monthly legal updates by email and host free events which include learning workshops, presentations from local authorities, and the opportunity to network with peers across different organisations.

So far this financial year, NHAS has handled over 10,000 enquiries, answering 96% of the calls received and with 98% of those surveyed saying they would use the service again. One client described NHAS as: ‘An excellent and really helpful service. The adviser I spoke to listened carefully and patiently to what I had to say and answered everything clearly, concisely and courteously.’

One example of this assistance was an instance where NHAS was contacted by a local authority housing officer needing advice after an applicant had approached them to say their landlord was trying to evict them. The NHAS adviser looked at the paperwork and confirmed that the notice was not valid. They explained the reasons for this, directed the housing officer to the relevant source, and made recommendations for the next steps to take.

In the current health crisis, NHAS is needed more than ever. The coronavirus outbreak and its economic impact are causing housing issues across the country as people lose their jobs or are unable to work, and are therefore unable to pay their rent or mortgage.

The work that NHAS does is all part of Shelter’s ambition to tackle the housing emergency. As Andy said: ‘There are currently five million people in need of housing…if we can extend [Shelter’s] reach by helping agencies help those people then we can help many of those five million people.’

To speak to an NHAS adviser, call 0300 330 0517 or visit the NHAS website for information on the latest housing, debt, and benefits guidance, including that related to the coronavirus outbreak.