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Helping local homeless people and new homelessness laws

Since 2003 the Council has had its own strategy to manage homelessness across the borough, which is reviewed and updated annually. The introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 on 3 April 2018 will significantly expand the responsibilities that all councils have to help prevent homelessness.

The Executive agreed new measures to support the new Act at its meeting last night (20 February). Additional funding of £460,000 will be provided over three years, by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local government (MHCLG) to help the Council meet its new duties and address issues of homelessness.

We will review and update our existing strategy in light of the new Act. The strategy currently focuses on:

  • tackling the issues of single homelessness and rough sleeping

  • managing the impact of welfare reform

  • improving access to affordable housing

  • partnership working.

Cllr Philip Brooker, Lead Councillor for Housing and Environment says: "The new Act in April provides a real opportunity for us to help more people across the borough who are at risk of homelessness. Through our current strategy, the Council has already been successful in the prevention of homelessness and we will continue to provide help for people at a difficult time for them. Not all homeless people are visible and our Homeless Outreach and Support team (HOST) will continue to meet the needs of rough sleepers. The best way for residents to help is to donate to the homeless charities in our borough and I encourage people to find out more about the local initiative, 'Have a heart, give smart'.

"We recognise that one of the key issues we face in our borough is the shortage of affordable accommodation. We will also be doing all we can to ensure that this is adequately addressed. In conjunction with our partner charitable organisations - Number Five Night shelter, Guildford Action, Riverside Housing and Support, Home Group and the Salvation Army Housing Association, along with other voluntary sector organisations, housing associations and our supportive private landlords, we are well placed to meet the challenges that the new legislation brings."

The new Act extends the Council's obligations to a much wider set of circumstances, and in some cases, for longer. This means that anyone with a housing problem that potentially increases the risk of them losing their home within a 56 day time-frame can now ask for our assistance. For example this means that singles or couples of working age who will have previously qualified for advice will now have to be supported more extensively, including to the point of providing short-term accommodation.

The new legislation presents the following challenges:

  • a potential increase in demand for support and assistance

  • the availability of short-term and emergency accommodation

  • the availability of suitable long-term accommodation

  • an increased administrative burden.

The new Act reflects our existing homelessness strategy but at this stage we cannot fully determine the additional demands that this might place on our Housing Assessment Team. However, in order to manage the expected demand we have conducted a staffing review, provided training for our staff and will be introducing new software to help manage the case-load process, and established greater collaborative working across Surrey.      

For more information on homelessness in the borough visit our rough sleeping page.

For more information on the 'Have a heart, give smart' campaign visit http://experienceguildford.co.uk/have-a-heart-give-smart/

Published on Wednesday 21 February.