About the Homelessness Reduction Act (HRA)
- What is changing?
- Partnership working
- Overall impact of these changes
- Positive outcomes of the Act
- Temporary accommodation provision
- If homelessness cannot be prevented
- Public bodies included in the ‘Duty to Refer’
- More information on the HRA
- Notification to end the Prevention or Relief Duty
What is the HRA?
The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017; implemented on 3 April 2018, places new duties on housing authorities to intervene earlier to prevent homelessness and to take reasonable steps to relieve homelessness for all eligible applicants, not just those that have priority need under the Act. This Act does not replace the previous legislation but ‘bolts on’ new duties.
|Prevent more people from becoming homeless in the first place by identifying people at risk and intervening earlier with evidenced solutions||Intervene rapidly if a homelessness crisis occurs, so it is brief and non-recurrent||Help more people recover from and exit homelessness by getting them back on their feet|
Why is the HRA being introduced?
The Act is based on the work of an independent panel of experts established by Crisis (the national charity for single homeless people) and draws heavily on changes made to the Welsh homeless legislation in 2015. Crisis highlighted a number of issues with the way the current law was working in practice:
- A lack of meaningful advice and assistance, which in some areas was not tailored to the individual’s needs
- Some local authorities were only helping at crisis point
- Local authorities were doing prevention work, but it was outside of the legal framework
- There was little protection for single people who did not have priority need or those who were ‘intentionally homeless’
The Act aims to reduce homelessness by:
- Improving the quality of the advice available
- Refocusing local authorities on prevention work
- Increasing support for single people
- Joining up services to provide better support for people, especially those leaving prison/hospital and other groups at increased risk of homelessness, such as people fleeing domestic abuse and care leavers
What is changing?
The Act requires Local Authorities’ to give free information and advice on:
- Preventing homelessness and securing accommodation when homeless
- The rights of people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness
- How to get help
- Information on tenants’ rights, rights to benefits, advice on debt, rent and mortgage arrears, help for people at risk of violence and abuse and advice on how to obtain accommodation in the social sector and private rented sector.
New ‘Prevention Duty’
Local Authorities’ must take reasonable steps to prevent homelessness for any eligible applicant, at risk of homelessness within 56 days, regardless of priority need. This can involve assisting them to stay in their current accommodation, or helping them to find a new place to live
New ‘Relief’ duty
Local Authorities’ must take reasonable steps to help the applicant to secure suitable accommodation. Help could be, for example, providing a bond guarantee, funding a rent deposit or working with a private landlord to make properties available.
Personal Housing Plans
Local Authorities’ must carry out a holistic assessment of the applicant’s housing needs, support needs and the circumstances that led to them becoming homeless. This assessment will result in developing a Personal Housing Plan with them, that sets out the reasonable steps that they, Homes for Haringey and, if applicable, other professionals will take in order to prevent or relieve their homelessness.
Duty to Refer’
Specified ‘public bodies’ must refer (with consent) details of any person they are aware of who is at risk of homelessness, within 56 days, to the housing department.
In addition to having a local connection to the authority who looked after them, a care leaver will also have a local connection with an area if they have lived there for 2 years, including some time before their 16th birthday.
Assessment process changes
Homes for Haringey will carry out the holistic assessment, which is likely to take up to ten days to complete. Following this, the Personal Housing Plan will be created.
Applicants are likely to experience longer interviews, as these will be more in-depth in order to produce the personal housing plan.
Initially there may be an increase in waiting times, whilst staff in all areas of the service adjust to the new legislation and IT system.
Everyone has a role to play in preventing homelessness and the Act provides an opportunity to work more closely with partners and co-produce an approach to homelessness prevention with those affected. It is crucial that stakeholders’ understand their important role in identifying people at risk of homelessness at an earlier stage, referring them to Homes for Haringey and then working collaboratively to help the person resolve their homelessness in a sustainable way.
To support this, we will
- work with colleagues across the wider public sector to ensure that operational staff take a proactive approach to homelessness and understand the triggers and indicators that a person or household is experiencing difficulties with their housing.
- develop refreshed joint-working protocols to ensure transparency around processes and pathways and the housing available within the borough.
- co-locate our staff with partner agencies such as Children’s Services, hospitals etc.; enabling us to reach people at an earlier stage.
- provide better information, training and guidance to partners on what help is available and how we can work together.
- work closely with the named public bodies to implement the ‘Duty to Refer’.
Overall impact of these changes
It is likely that the number of homeless applications made will increase significantly, with estimates in the range of 50% to 300%. Homes for Haringey have restructured their service and recruited additional staff to manage the increased workload.
There could also be an increase in certain costs associated with managing homelessness applications, such as around providing storage or carrying out statutory reviews of the decisions’ made.
Positive outcomes of the Act
- By intervening earlier in someone’s homelessness journey it will prevent more people from losing their homes, thus reducing both the human and financial costs of homelessness.
- By focusing on addressing the underlying causes of homelessness such as unemployment or lack of financial literacy as well as the symptoms, applicants’ will increase their independence and resilience and be enabled to recover from homelessness in a sustainable way.
- Working together to deliver the Duty to Refer and other early interventions to address homeless should enhance partnership working and help partners’ to deliver their objectives as well as ours.
- Better evidencing of need and ‘what works’ will inform the commissioning process and deliver more effective services.
Temporary accommodation provision
Where Haringey has reason to believe that a person is homeless, eligible and has a priority need, interim accommodation will be provided. This remains unchanged from the 1996 Housing Act. Priority need and intentionality will remain part of the assessment process for the Council when dealing with full homelessness applications if the new Prevention and Relief duties fail to resolve an applicant’s homelessness.
There may be some increase in the use of Temporary Accommodation for certain groups because of the Act. However, it is not anticipated that this will be a very significant increase. One of the focuses of the Act is to ensure that more people get help earlier and that fewer people will end up requiring temporary accommodation.
It is important to note that the Act is not about providing greater access to social rented homes and it will not create any new social housing.
If homelessness cannot be prevented
If all prevention and relief duty activity fails, the usual tests (priority need and intentional homelessness) are applied to ascertain if the person is owed the full homelessness duty.
Public bodies included in the ‘Duty to Refer’
The ‘Duty to Refer’ commenced in October 2018. The agencies have this duty are:
- Youth offender institutions
- Secure training centres
- Secure colleges
- Youth offending teams
- Probation services (including community rehabilitation companies)
- Jobcentre Plus
- Social service authorities
- Emergency departments
- Urgent treatment centres
- Hospitals in their function of providing inpatient care
- The Secretary of State for Defence is also subject to the duty to refer in relation to the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines, the regular Army and the Royal Air Force.
More information on the HRA
The Government has recently published a new Homelessness Code of Guidance which is available on the GOV.UK website (external link)
Notification to end the Prevention or Relief Duty due to deliberate and unreasonable refusal to co-operate
The homelessness code of guidance 2018 outlines the circumstances under which the Local Authority can bring the prevention or relief duty to an end. As part of the statutory duty to prevent or relieve homelessness a personal housing plan is produced by working collaboratively with the applicant.
The personal housing plan will contain reasonable steps for the applicant to take in order to prevent or relieve their homelessness. If the applicant deliberately or unreasonably refuses to comply with these steps a warning letter is issued for non-compliance and ultimately the prevention and relief duty can be brought to an end by issuing the applicant with a notice.
More information is available here: Non Co-operation procedure (PDF 179KB)
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