Preparing for the Homelessness Reduction Act with the new Andy Gale and Locata Preventing Homelessness Toolkits
Andy Gale and Locata have joined together to develop a brand-new set of Preventing Homelessness toolkits to help local authorities prepare for the changes that will be introduced by the Homelessness Reduction Act that received Royal Assent on April 27, 2017.
The Act fundamentally changes the homelessness legislation by introducing a statutory duty to help prevent applicants from losing their home and requiring action to help secure accommodation for applicants who are homeless. The new duties are ‘blind’ to whether an applicant has a priority need.
Although the Act has now been passed by Parliament, the Government is still to decide when to enact the new legislation. Some commentators anticipate it will be brought in by next Spring - probably April 1st, 2018. We are told that during the transitional period support will be available to help local authorities prepare, and to train staff.
Local authorities have an excellent record for working successfully to prevent homelessness. However, the transitional period between now and when the new Act is fully implemented is relatively short, leaving local authorities with much to do to prepare for implementation.
There will, inevitably, be a need to look at Housing Options Structure, Triage arrangements, review the approach to prevention and to overhaul working processes. All Housing Options staff and other relevant teams will need to be fully trained on the new law, the prevention duties and how to implement the many other changes that the Act will make to the way the Part 7 statutory tests are assessed and applied.
There are clearly resource constraints and not every local authority will be able to work fully to the ‘spirit’ of the new legislation until there is an announcement by DCLG of the level of “new burdens” funding your authority will receive to support the Act’s introduction. However, we believe there are many local authorities wanting to pilot and trial new prevention approaches as soon as possible
Now the final wording for the new legal duties are known, we are working on a second release of toolkit resources to include examples for the new assessment forms and a set of example notification letters covering the new section 184 requirements for each new duty, plus examples of new notification letters to accept or end any of the new duties.
If you have any queries specifically for how to use the toolkits, or need any further help and advice on their implementation, Andy Gale can be contacted through email@example.com - queries on how Locata can help you and the products it offers should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, please note the information and advice in the toolkits has not been legally checked and is for guidance only. It does not form legal advice.
Andy Gale and Locata can take no responsibility for the accuracy of the content or any changes made by a local authority to the toolkits. A local authority should always consult its own legal services when considering introducing any new resources contained in this toolkit.
There are seven toolkits all aimed at helping local authorities develop their work and approach to prevention. They can be downloaded for free below.
Toolkit 1 is a full set of example Personal Housing Plans based on the likely new Act requirements. There is a plan for each presenting “risk of homelessness” problem. Each plan sets out in writing the steps that a local authority intends to take to prevent or relieve homelessness and contains examples of the steps that may be discussed with an applicant in seeking their agreement.
Toolkit 2 is a comprehensive casework kit providing a new framework for undertaking casework and contains a set of useful new resources to help you to better prevent homelessness for applicants issued with a section 21 notice or facing possession action. This is now the largest cause of statutory homeless acceptances. There is a full explanation at the beginning of this toolkit explaining how and when to use the toolkit.
Toolkit 3 is a comprehensive casework kit providing a new framework for undertaking casework and contains a set of useful new resources to help you to better prevent homelessness for applicants who may have been asked to leave or be at risk of becoming homeless from their parental home or the home of extended family and friends. This is the second biggest cause of statutory homeless acceptances. There is a full explanation at the beginning of this toolkit explaining how and when to use it.
Toolkit 4 is a self-help pack for section 21 AST notice cases that can be issued to encourage applicants to consider the steps they can take to help prevent their homelessness
Toolkit 5 is a self-help pack for applicants who may have been asked to leave, or may be at risk of becoming homeless from their parental home or the home of extended family and friends. The aim is to encourage applicants and their families to consider the help that may be available to prevent homelessness.
Toolkit 6 is a short guide to the implications of the Homelessness Reduction Act for local authority caseworkers and other bodies. It sets out to answer many of the common questions front line officers are raising as they contemplate getting to grips with many new duties and how to apply a substantially altered legal framework with new duties and changes to the current statutory tests.
Toolkit 7 is a letters pack that covers the full range of legal section 184 decisions that a local authority can make on a homelessness application. The full toolkit is substantial and contains 76 letters across 335 pages. The objective is to help the local authority make lawfully correct homelessness decisions by ensuring that the correct legal tests set by the legislation and caselaw have been applied and reminding the officer of the tests that should have been considered when making enquiries for each type of decision.
Toolkit 8 is a letters pack that covers the full range of Part 7 decisions that a local authority will need to make following the enactment of the Homelessness Reduction Act on the 3rd April 2018. The full toolkit is substantial and contains 135 letters in 16 sections across more than 560 pages. The letters seek to help Options Officers by setting out the test an officer may wish to apply to reach a decision on a case. Each letter has the required references to the appropriate Chapters and where relevant paragraphs of the 2018 Draft Homelessness Code of Guidance.
Toolkit 9 sets out options for amending an allocations scheme to reflect the new section 195 Prevention of Homelessness, and section 189B Relief of Homelessness duties, both of which will be owed a statutory reasonable preference under section 166A(3) of Part 6 Housing Act 1996. The toolkit includes 7 example models for how a local authority may wish to consider reflecting these new and existing homelessness duties in their amended scheme.