For the first time, prisons, probation services, Jobcentres and NHS Trusts will be among the organisations that have a duty to help those at risk of becoming homeless and refer them to a housing authority, Minister for Homelessness Heather Wheeler confirmed today (22 February)
In new guidance published today, the government has outlined how councils and public bodies must support the homeless or those at risk of losing their home under their new duties introduced by the Homelessness Reduction Act. The Homelessness Reduction Act – the most ambitious legislative reform for decades – places new legal duties on English councils to intervene at an earlier stage to prevent homelessness.
Councils will now be required to ensure the advice and information they provide is designed to meet the needs of particular risk groups including care leavers, people leaving prison, people who have left the armed forces, survivors of domestic abuse and those suffering from a mental illness.
In addition to new duties to refer those at risk of homelessness, the Homelessness Reduction Act will include:
- Providing free information and advice on preventing homelessness and the rights of homeless people, to all residents, including information tailored to the needs of particularly vulnerable groups;
- A new duty for those who are already homeless so that local authorities will work with them for 56 days to help secure accommodation.
Minister for Homelessness Heather Wheeler said:
“Everyone should have a home to call their own and we have put in place strong protections to guard families and individuals against the threat of homelessness.
“Our reforms – putting prevention at the heart of everything we do – are designed for lasting change and to back this up we’re investing almost £1bn over the next 4 years to break the homelessness cycle once and for all.”
The government has backed the Homelessness Reduction Act with £72.7m of funding to help councils to deliver these changes. In time, it is expected that the increased preventative work brought about by the Act will lead to substantial savings for councils.
The confirmation of which public bodies have a duty to refer is part of a wider package of regulations made ahead of the roll-out of the Homelessness Reduction Act in April.
Alongside the new duty to refer, the government is working closely with key sector organisations to identify different ways services can contribute to preventing homelessness and supporting the successful implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act.
In particular, the department is working with the National Housing Federation (NHF) to explore how housing associations can support the Act, including by making referrals, and working with the National Police Chiefs’ Council to develop a ‘test and learn’ project in Brighton & Hove focusing on homelessness prevention.