The Homelessness Reduction Act comes into force this month. The act places legal duties on councils to meaningfully support those trying to resolve their homelessness, and introduces wider guidance on preventing homelessness early. In particular, certain aspects could affect faith and community efforts:

  • Public duty to refer: Under the new guidelines, many people working in the public sector will have a duty to refer to or inform relevant agencies if they suspect a person is experiencing or facing homelessness. This means that applications and uses of other services can be offered with awareness of this personal circumstance. It is unlikely, however, that this duty will affect those operating charitable support.

 

  • Personalised housing plans: for those facing or threatened with homeless, local authorities will carry out a detailed assessment setting out the circumstances leading to homelessness, households support needs and the preferable housing type. The assessment concludes with an individual personalised housing plan, exploring reasonable steps that should be actioned by the applicant, authority and partner agencies. This could involve certain voluntary sector services and may mean agencies coming together more collaboratively.

 

  • Right to a review: The new Act brings offers opportunities to request a review of a decision including a review of: the decision that an applicant is either ineligible for assistance, the decision that someone has deliberately and unreasonably refused to co-operate with the personal housing plan, the decision that a household does not have a priority need, is intentionally homeless, or does not have a local connection. This could lead to people in the early stages of claiming support spending a longer time in bureaucratic processes, and consequently longer relying on voluntary and faith efforts.

 

  • Improved information and advice: Local authorities have an increased advice obligation. This can, however, be contracted out, some of which may reach the voluntary sector.