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st 1 February 2008 Homelessness Toolkit February 2008 Homelessness Action Team 1 st 1 February 2008 Homelessness Action Team Homelessness Toolkit The Housing Corporation launched "Tackling Homelessness", its strategy on homelessness, in November 2006. This strategy is based on six themes: developing better partnership working with local government; working towards sustainable, cohesive and balanced communities where people want to live; preventing homelessness by promoting coherent and seamless housing allocation and management and support for tenants; encouraging housing associations to make better use of existing stock; working with Regional Housing Boards to direct investment towards improving access to housing where there is housing need; and promoting good practice to support associations and other landlords in raising performance standards. This toolkit has been developed to help housing associations to progress their approaches to respond to the themes in the Homelessness Strategy. It identifies key questions to inform the review of service areas and aims to act as a stimulus to further work, rather than guidance on exactly how services should be provided. You do not need to complete the toolkit like a questionnaire. It is for you to use in the best way to improve your services that prevent and tackle homelessness. It provides a good basis of the development of a homelessness action plan. This document is not statutory guidance and is not linked to any investment or regulatory decisions by the Housing Corporation. Housing associations are reminded of the obligations and guidance relating to homelessness included in: The Housing Corporation's Regulatory Code Circular 02/03 on local authority nominations Circular 02/07 on tenancy management: eligibility and evictions Good Practice Note 12 on Choice-Based Lettings Good Practice Note 8 on equality and diversity Good Practice Note 4 on race equality and diversity There are many issues and agendas that impact on homelessness that housing associations need to consider when reviewing their approach to homelessness. These include financial inclusion, anti-social behaviour, worklessness and overcrowding. The toolkit aims to give some guidance on how these complementary, but sometimes competing, issues should be covered in developing a homelessness action plan. The Homelessness Action Team The Housing Corporation and Communities and Local Government established a team of Special Advisors on Homelessness, the Homelessness Action Team. We are a team of practitioners seconded from the sector works with housing associations, local authorities and other key stakeholders, both strategically and operationally, to prevent and tackle homelessness. The team will promote the Housing Corporation's Homelessness Strategy to housing associations through sharing good practice and working with housing associations and other housing providers to implement that good practice. The main aim is to contribute to meeting key government targets: Keeping homeless families out of B&B (except for an emergency, for a maximum of 6 weeks). 2 st 1 February 2008 Keeping the level of rough sleepers down to as close to zero as possible and at no more than two-thirds of the number in 1998. Halving the number of households in temporary accommodation by 2010. Reducing levels of overcrowding. Using the toolkit We have developed the toolkit for us to use with you in reviewing your approach to homelessness. It will be best if we visit you and run through the toolkit to help you to identify your strengths and those areas that can feed into your action plan to develop your services. However, you may wish to use the toolkit without a visit from our team. There is a set of main questions under each of the themes in the Housing Corporation‟s Homelessness Strategy. These allow you to initially review where you stand on each theme. Under each of these main questions there is a series of further questions in italics that you can use to complete a more in depth review if you wish. Good practice examples are provided to illustrate the range of ways that some associations have tackled the issues that you may face. We know there are many more examples of good practice but we have included some to give you a contact if you want to explore a specific approach in greater detail. Please don't just fill in answers under each heading to satisfy yourself that you do enough. Look at what you do. Do you have sufficient data? Are you doing enough to prevent homelessness rather than dealing with families who have become homeless? Are your services sufficiently targeted at the needs today and into the future? Are there gaps in your service? Are major changes needed or just small adjustments? You may wish to concentrate on certain elements of the toolkit and your services where you feel you can have the greatest impact. If you're not sure about what the toolkit is asking or need advice on how your association could respond please contact us. We are happy to provide advice by telephone or email. You need to be realistic in what you can achieve and how you can work with partners to deliver a range of services that prevent and tackle homelessness. Use the toolkit to make a difference, not just to keep us happy! The Homelessness Action Team offers to visit you and we will use the toolkit as the starting point for our visits. We can support your approach to the toolkit through advice and the provision of good practice. Alternatively, we can lead an action planning day bringing together your staff and your partners. It will be useful if you could feedback to us on the level of type of support that you would most welcome. A list of helpful publications is provided at appendix one. These can help you develop more detailed actions for areas where you identify any gaps. The Homelessness Action Team will develop and improve the toolkit over time. We would be grateful to receive any feedback on the document and suggestions for improvements and wider comments on the role of the team. 3 st 1 February 2008 Contact us Mark Meehan Gerald Wild email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org 07721 375104 07971 667119 Madeleine Jeffery Nick Sedgwick email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org 07798 588752 07919 394910 Dave Anteh email@example.com 07920 781254 4 st 1 February 2008 Theme 1: Better partnership working "We want to develop better partnership working between associations, local authorities and other agencies." 'Tackling Homelessness'; The Housing Corporation, 2006 1.1 How well does your association work in partnership with local authorities and other partner organisations in agreeing strategies, especially relating to homelessness? How can you improve your strategic working? Which other organisations does the association identify as stakeholders / partners? Does the association attend local housing fora and contribute to local authority, regional or sub-regional homelessness strategies? Which meetings are attended? (More strategic meetings or specifically homelessness?) Who attends, what is their role? Does the association lead these meetings, play active part or monitor progress? Is attendance related to stock holding? How effective are these meetings? Are there any arrangements to share representation at these meetings with other associations? Have you considered stock rationalisation in areas where you have minimal stock? Has the association positively signed-up to any local, regional or sub-regional homelessness strategies? Does the association provide information to local authority partners on its performance in tackling homelessness? Does the association see the 2010 temporary accommodation target as a shared responsibility with local authority partners? Is the association aware of local authorities’ approaches to reducing temporary accommodation and overcrowding? What would promote better partnership working? Good Example The Bromford Housing Group aims to hold annual meetings with all its local authority partners. A standard agenda is used to ensure that all relevant issues are discussed, including homelessness in the area and the group‟s contribution to preventing and tackling homelessness in the area. The meetings are supported by an annual performance review that the group produces for each local authority covering achievements, performance indicators and the group‟s plans in each area. Contact: Christine Gibson 1.2 How well does your association work in partnership with local authorities and other partner organisations on an operational basis to tackle homelessness? How can you improve those working relationships? Which other organisations does the association identify as stakeholders / partners? Are there disputes operationally over services for homeless people? Are there arrangements for joint delivery of services? 5 st 1 February 2008 Are there nominated lead officers who regularly liaise to ensure there is effective co- operation at an operational level? Are there formal methods to refer a household to the local homeless persons unit together with agreed timescales in which these referrals should be made? What would promote better partnership working? How do you ensure agreed joint working arrangements are effectively communicated to frontline staff and are consistently applied? 1.3 Do you analyse a breakdown of the households you are housing to see if you are meeting local housing need and your association's aims? If so, what action do you take as a result? Is your recording of data for CORE correct? Are the officers who complete the CORE forms aware of the importance of the data? How often are they trained on how to complete the forms? Do you report to Board giving a breakdown of who you are housing and are any action agreed as a result? Do you discuss these results with your local authority partners? 1.4 What percentage of lettings by your association are as a result of a local authority nomination? Are you satisfied that you are contributing to meeting housing need and tackling homelessness? Has this been increasing or decreasing? Are they in line with the Partners Agreement (If applicable)? Is this above or below the national and regional averages? RSL Lettings as a result of local authority nominations - CORE 2006/07 England 50.4% London 65.2% South East 71.3% South West 69.5% East Midlands 55.5% East 68.1% West Midlands 40.9% Yorks & Humber 44.6% North East 37.7% North West 26.6% Merseyside 25.1% What is the proportion of general needs nominations rejected? What were the reasons for rejection? Are you satisfied that they were reasonable? Are these figures reported to the association’s Board? 1.5 What percentage of lettings does your association make to those who are statutorily homelessness? Are you satisfied that you are sufficiently contributing to meeting housing need and tackling homelessness? Has this been increasing or decreasing? Is this above or below the national and regional averages? Does the association let to people who would otherwise need to make a homelessness declaration? Do you know the numbers of people being found to be statutory homeless in the main areas in which your association operates? 6 st 1 February 2008 Are there good homelessness prevention services in your main areas of operation leading to fewer statutory homeless households seeking accommodation? Are these figures reported to the association’s Board? RSL Lettings to statutory homeless - CORE 2006/07 England 17.8% London 26.9% South East 20.1% South West 25.1% East Midlands 17.1% East 24.5% West Midlands 16.0% Yorks & Humber 11.9% North East 11.0% North West 12.6% Merseyside 12.4% 1.6 Do your nominations agreements effectively identify those families in housing need and match them with appropriate housing? If not, what are you doing about it? Are these written agreements maintained centrally? Are frontline staff aware of these agreements and their contents? Have the agreements been reviewed in the last twelve months? Does the association receive sufficient information with nominations to ensure that appropriate offers are made and the need for advice and support is identified? Does the association monitor its performance against the agreements? Does the association meet with local authorities to discuss nominations? Do these meetings successfully deal with: - Definition of a true void. - Nomination entitlement figure. - Roles of the LA and HA in selecting and prioritising applicants. - The allocations policy under which nominations will be made. - Method for identifying and counting nominations and for counting lettings to nominations. - Grounds for refusing a nomination and dispute resolution mechanism. - The nomination process (does it start with LA nominating an applicant or the HA identifying a vacant property) - The number of nominees per vacancy. - Information about vacancies and nominees to be supplied - Procedures for acceptance and rejection of nominees. - Timescales for each stage. Good Example The ODPM guidance 'Effective Co-operation in Tackling Homelessness: Nomination Agreements and Exclusions' (2004) provides valuable information on approaching nomination agreements for housing associations and local authorities. It includes checklists on the information to be included in nomination agreements. 7 st 1 February 2008 Good practice Swan Housing Group has a matrix which contains details of every letting by local authority area and bedroom size, separating new builds and relets. This is continuously updated to allow officers to ensure the level of nominations provided to the local authority is in line with the nominations arrangements. Contact Angela O‟Callaghan 1.7 Does your association have information sharing protocols with local authorities that provide nominations? If not, how can you approach developing such protocols? Good Example The Housing Corporation has published the „Access to housing information sharing protocol‟. The protocol does not replace an allocations policy. Rather it clarifies and makes consistent the information base that is required to implement an allocation policy, whatever its criteria. The underlying principle behind the protocol is to encourage the exchange of the right amount and quality of accurate information, at the relevant point of access to housing – neither too little, nor too much. There are three types of information to be supplied Essential information about communication needs, high risks, major vulnerability and basic household information (size, ages and relationships); Flags and flagged information covers aspects about the applicant that are required for a successful allocation. Contacts in agencies relevant agencies that may provide fuller information or support to the applicant must be provided and should be followed up by the receiving landlord; and Checklists and additional information allow further details to be provided to help the receiving landlord. Additionally, there is a section for the nominating agency to flag a summary risk assessment. There are three elements to the protocol: (1) The first section describes the purpose of the protocol, and processes associated with it; (2) Annexes schedule information to be collected and passed on, to aid the allocation process; and (3) Further annexes comprise a set of forms that replicate the structure for collecting information, compatible either as a stand-alone system, or to be used on a networking basis between agencies. You can find the protocol on the Housing Corporation‟s website. 1.8 Has your association agreed any protocols with other service providers to aid joint working in preventing and tackling homelessness? Where could such protocols improve your approach? Children’s services. Intentionally homeless families. 16/17 year olds. Care leavers. Older homeless people with support needs. 8 st 1 February 2008 Residential accommodation for older people with high care needs who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Discharge from hospital if there is homelessness or a risk of homelessness. Preventing homelessness among offenders due for release, or service at end of community sentence. Drug and alcohol dependent cases. Local secondary schools to help educate students regarding housing advice and the risks of homelessness. Domestic violence / racial harassment Good Example Look Ahead Housing and Care Ltd's tenancy sustainment team works with former rough sleepers. An information sharing protocol identifies the following elements to be shared between housing associations and the team: Any incident, complaint or breach of tenancy which might put the tenancy in jeopardy Any information about the potential risk(s) posed by, or to, the tenant. For example, if the tenant is experiencing harassment from neighbours Any housing management action to be taken, which could affect the tenancy. Good Example Greater Manchester Probation Service has a liaison protocol signed with local housing associations and housing departments. It covers the disclosure of risk information about offenders who have committed specific offences and who are on statutory and voluntary supervision, who apply for housing or who are accepted as homeless. The protocol covers: The authority to disclose. The scope of disclosure. The process for disclosure. Confidentiality. Liaison about anti-social behaviour. Standard forms for the disclosure of information. 1.9 Has your association appointed a Homelessness Champion to drive forward its approach to tackling homelessness? If not, who will undertake this role? Have any additional resources been allocated to tackling homelessness? Has the association used the guidance on the role of Homelessness Champions available from the Homelessness Action Team? 1.10 Has your association written a homelessness action plan or do you plan to write an action plan? If so, when will it be completed? Has the association used the guidance provided by the homelessness action plan template available from the Homelessness Action Team? Have you consulted your key local authority partners to ensure your plan is in line with local priorities? 9 st 1 February 2008 Good Example New Charter Housing Group has a homelessness prevention policy statement that states its commitment to preventing homelessness, supporting government policy and the North-West regional housing strategy. This gives short policy statements covering a wide range of different areas of service delivery. It provides a good example of the commitments that may be included within homelessness action plans. Contact: Tony Powell Is the association involved in any regional or sub-regional partnership working? Good Example The Norfolk RSL Alliance has produced a joint sub-regional homelessness strategy, identifying examples of good practice and agreeing a wide range of joint actions. The strategy covers 11 housing associations. Contact: Gary Orr, Broadland Housing Association 10 st 1 February 2008 Theme 2: Sustainable and mixed communities "We want to achieve sustainable cohesive and mixed communities where people want to live, with transparent local lettings and community building policies that work to strengthen viable local and mixed communities, choice, mobility and residents' voices." 'Tackling Homelessness'; The Housing Corporation, 2006 2.1 How do your community development activities contribute to reducing homelessness? Do more strategic and operational links need to be made? Community development Financial inclusion Social enterprise 2.2 How does your association address the financial exclusion of your tenants? Can you demonstrate an impact on preventing homelessness? What initiatives` are you interested in developing in the future? - Money advice - Savings schemes - Affordable credit - Schemes to tackle worklessness Offer use of office space and interview facilities to support local voluntary or community organisations. Collection of information to identify and address expensive or illegal doorstep lenders. Targeted welfare and housing benefit take-up campaigns. Promote the benefits of cheaper fuel deals for direct debit customers as well as shopping around for the cheapest provider. Assist with applications for Housing Benefit and advise on income maximisation. Use financial deals to lever-in support for financial inclusion activities such as negotiating the provision of access to free bank accounts and affordable credit to all residents. Utilise links with established resident and youth groups to promote financial inclusion and capability activities. Involve tenants in the planning and delivery of financial inclusion activities. Promote financial inclusion services and raise awareness through in-house publications. Review existing partnering arrangements and procedures to change the focus of advice from reactive crisis management to preventative advice. Signpost to specialist agencies. 11 st 1 February 2008 Good Contact The Chartered Institute of Housing has appointed Sharon Wheeler to work with housing organisations to look at ways they can help their residents deal with their finances more confidently. She aims to provide advice, information and support to housing providers to help them develop their work on financial inclusion and capability. This may include reviewing and developing financial inclusion strategies, finding and using good practice examples and getting advice on building successful partnerships with Credit Unions, banks and advice agencies. The role is sponsored by the Financial Services Authority. Contact: Sharon Wheeler Good Example Derwent and Solway Housing Association runs 'Routes to Work' that aims to reduce unemployment, engage unemployed residents in learning and training, and tackle and overcome social and economic exclusion. Vocational training programmes are tailored to meet each person's specific needs. Offers personal development activities to help residents overcome the psychological barriers that can be the feature of long-term unemployment. Helps people with applications and prepares them for interviews and their first day at work. In a year the scheme had helped over 1,000 into employment. Good Example The Helping Hands Savings and Loan Scheme in the North East is a partnership between the Darlington Building Society and five associations: Tees Valley, North British, the Guinness Trust, Endeavour and Home. Unsecured loans are available to customers who have saved at least £1 a month Loans are limited to twice the saving account balance up to a maximum of £250. The associations contribute to a £50,000 guarantee fund to underwrite the loans. Good Example CHANGE was one of London's first community finance schemes. It has been developed by L&Q and a number of other associations. It offers. Personal loans at affordable rates, Help with rescheduling debts and better money management, Fresh-start loans for those with a portfolio of debts, and Back to work loans. 12 st 1 February 2008 Good Example Cambridge Housing Society offers a range of services aimed at improving the financial position of residents. Under the New Horizons brand the association offers a service to assist in claiming benefits, debt advice, access to low cost loans, home contents insurance, reduced energy charges for those paying by prepayment meters and easy access to savings accounts. The Society also offers access to training to help them access employment that is provided in residents‟ own homes and supported by the free loan of a laptop computer. Contact: Andrew Church Good Example Whitefriars Housing Group – Tomorrow’s Tenants The customer involvement team provide a course in housing related matters to help prepare young people for their first tenancies. The course consists of five modules, including a session on financial budgeting and money matters delivered by the local money advice centre. Initial interest was generated through the People‟s Place drop-in centre – a community house offering a range of activities for young people. Contact: Gaynor Reynolds Good Example Wakefield and District Housing maintains a website to help financially excluded tenants. The website provides information on how to get an affordable loan, reduce household bills and set up bank accounts. Contact: Martyn Durant 2.3 How does your allocations / lettings scheme contribute to reducing homelessness? Does your policy need reviewing to respond to the preventative agenda and changing needs? Did the association consult with local authorities when agreeing its allocations / lettings policy? Has the association sought the views of applicants on the lettings policy and application process? How easy is it to access the association's lettings scheme? What is the association's approach to exclusions (rent arrears and ASB)? Cannot consider non-housing debt. Where applicant is excluded because of previous rent arrears it is good practice to: o Ensure the reason for the arrears is fully investigated, and not as a result of benefit issues; o Provide failed applicants with an advice letter explaining why they have been excluded and what action they need to take to become accepted; and o Refer the excluded applicants for free face to face money and welfare advice. 13 st 1 February 2008 Good Example Trafford Housing Trust operates a Housing Review Panel that agrees how those who have been suspended from the waiting list can be reinstated. Their decisions are communicated to the households involved so they know what they must do to be reinstated. Contact: Rebecca Ernill How does the policy prioritise housing need including homelessness and overcrowding? How does the policy respond to the needs of those in temporary accommodation, to avoid any ‘silting up’ of temporary accommodation or preventing homeless acceptances from moving on from temporary accommodation within a reasonable period of time? 2.4 Is your association involved in choice based lettings? If so, is it effectively meeting local housing need and reducing homelessness? Is sufficient advice and assistance targeted to homeless households? If the association is not involved in CBL, why not? Are the CBL systems based on real partnership so all those landlords involved share data and understand the outcomes so the systems can be adjusted to meet their aims? Is there a Common Housing Register in operation in your areas of operation? Are you involved? If not why not? RSL Lettings through Choice Based Lettings - CORE 2005/06 England 21.7% London 34.9% South East 16.0% South West 26.8% East Midlands 24.6% East 11.1% West Midlands 15.7% Yorks & Humber 21.7% North East 14.1% North West 21.9% Merseyside 36.1% 2.5 How does your association operate local lettings policies and how do they impact on tackling homelessness? Is a review of your local lettings policies needed? How widespread is the use of local lettings policies? Has their use been agreed by the Board? How significant are the criteria / exclusions within the plans? Are local lettings plans agreed with local authorities and other associations operating in the area? Are local lettings plans time limited? Are local lettings plans linked with other measures such as more intensive housing management, community promises, or starter tenancies? 2.6 Does your association operate starter tenancies and how do they impact on tackling homelessness? Are starter tenancies used across all lettings or only in certain areas? 14 st 1 February 2008 Has their use been agreed by the Board? Are they used as part of a strategy to manage ASB or are they also being used to manage rent arrears? Is extra tenancy support put in place during the starter tenancy period? Do you monitor the failure rate of tenancies and learn from the reasons? 15 st 1 February 2008 Theme 3: Preventing homelessness "We will support housing associations in preventing homelessness by promoting coherent and seamless housing allocation and management approaches, and seek to sustain tenancies where possible, with eviction as a last resort." 'Tackling Homelessness'; The Housing Corporation, 2006 3.1 Is there Board level commitment to tackle homelessness? Do you need a Board discussion specifically on homelessness? Has there been Board report summarising the association's approach to homelessness and the actions required? Does the Board see any performance information relating to tackling homelessness? 3.2 Is tackling homelessness included within your association's Corporate objectives? If not, why not? Is this reflecting in other plans or work programmes? Is homelessness discussed in management meetings or in a specific team meeting Good Example Harvest Housing Group includes regular articles on homelessness and preventing homelessness in its newsletter to tenants to raise awareness of the issues and the services that help to tackle homelessness Contact: Michelle Gregg 3.3. Does your performance on the following indicators highlight the need to review your approach and its impact on homelessness? Rent collection - Is there sufficient advice and support to avoid people going into debt? National median 99.4%, top quartile 100.1% Current tenant arrears - Is there sufficient advice and support to avoid people going into debt? National median 4.9%, top quartile 3.5% Notices of Seeking Possession served - Is legal action being pursued too early or inappropriately? (low numbers = better performance on homelessness prevention). Percentage of general needs tenants evicted as a result of rent arrears - Is eviction only used as a last resort? (low numbers = better performance on homelessness prevention). National figure is approximately 0.5% How many people have been excluded from the transfer / waiting list during the last year due to existing rent arrears? 3.4 How do your approaches to arrears recovery contribute to homelessness prevention? Do you take a holistic approach to debt management? Do you need to learn more about good practice in homelessness prevention? How does the association identify the need for advice and support early enough to allow it to be effective? Is eviction seen as a last resort and are other options pursued first? 16 st 1 February 2008 Does the association follow the pre-court protocol for arrears possession cases? How does the association pursue rent arrears where there may be current Housing Benefit application? What is the association's approach to the use of Ground 8? Has the association agreed any protocols with local authorities? Has the association access to a dedicated Housing Benefit officer who can respond to prevent homelessness? Are there formal methods to refer a household to the local homeless persons unit together with agreed timescales in which these referrals should be made? Has the association considered or agreed an ‘invest to save’ strategy that will reduce homelessness but also achieve efficiencies? Costs of a failed tenancy and abandonment range from £4,000 to £10,500 per case. Are your frontline income collection officers aware of this potential saving if they sustain a tenancy?. Do you incentivise them to do this? Is there a budget available to prevent homelessness? Good Example In Telford & Wrekin the burden of rent debt can be shared to avoid homelessness and the costs of a failed tenancy. The housing association writes off a third, the local authority pays a third and tenant gets credit union loan for other third. The credit union loan is monitored to identify any further debt problems and the tenant is provided advice and training. Contact: Jane Brookes, Wrekin Housing Trust Good Example New Charter Housing Trust offers: A fund to support a debt matching scheme that includes a hardship fund. £5,000 p.a. to help those with large multiple debts, matching payments up to an agreed maximum. Linked to a personal plan of positive action. Contact: Tony Powell Good Example Whitefriars Housing Group has a Housing Benefit Co-ordination Manager who trains staff on benefit issues and liaises regularly with local authority housing benefit staff. Contact: Leisa Dixon Good Example Notting Hill Housing Trust has changed the emphasis of its income collection strategy from legal action to tenancy sustainment, improving collection and reducing evictions: Direct contact by telephone or in person Agree personal payment plans Extended working hours to cover evenings and weekends Redesigned escalation policies Money advice surgeries Prevention targeted at new tenants and when arrears are low. Contact: Vincent Thomas 17 st 1 February 2008 Good Example Accord Housing Association has a flexible tenure policy to enable shared owners to decrease (or increase) the equity share in their home and to switch from shared ownership to renting. This acts as a “safety net” to enable people to stay in their home despite adverse changes in their financial circumstances. It reflects the association‟s policy of possession as a last resort. Contact: Wendy Powell Good Example Optima Community Housing Association has a tenancy conditions panel that ensures that options have been explored and other services engaged before a household may be evicted. Contact: Jon Maybury 3.5 How does your approach to anti-social behaviour, harassment and domestic violence contribute to homelessness prevention? Do your policies and procedures need reviewing to emphasise preventing homelessness? How does the association identify the need for advice and support early enough to allow it to be effective? Are support services in place to help people who are perpetrators of anti-social behaviour? Are there clear procedures in place on how to support victims of domestic violence who are threatened with homelessness? - Named officer to deal with case - Emergency accommodation - Referral to specialist advice and support services - Sanctuary scheme - Eviction of perpetrators Good Example Community Housing Group: Multi-agency approach to ASB, alongside the use of injunctions. Developed strong links with the police and youth offending team. Case conferences involving schools and social services are also part of setting up support plans to address behaviour. Good Example Castle Vale Community Housing Association, Trident Housing Association and Bromford Housing Group operate a protocol in Birmingham to allow the associations to seek alternative accommodation in the other associations‟ stock for women experiencing domestic violence to avoid the need for the women to make a homelessness application. Good practice The West London Housing Partnership has a reciprocal agreement between 7 local authorities, which RSLs can access, allowing victims of domestic violence and harassment to find accommodation within the West London Partnership area. Contact Tim Gray –West London Housing Partnership. 18 st 1 February 2008 3.6 Is your approach to aids and adaptations sufficiently responsive to prevent homelessness? Does it need reviewing? Is there a mechanism to assess for and provide home adaptations as a matter of urgency in cases where the client would otherwise be at risk of homelessness? 3.7 How does your association provide housing advice that may help to reduce homelessness? Is the advice sufficiently preventative in its approach? Does the association provide advice on other sources of housing to applicants? Is information on housing options available in other languages? If independent housing advice is provided in the association's area is there any referral protocol or Service Level Agreement in place? Does the association have access to a mediation service that can assist in preventing homelessness? Have front line staff been trained on homelessness legislation and prevention of homelessness? Good Example Swale Housing Association: Supports various voluntary groups with grants (CAB, Victim Support, Mediation Service, independent housing advice service) Can refer tenants and promotes them amongst tenants and receives quarterly monitoring reports. E.g. £7,500 funding to the CAB led to additional £74,000 HB for tenants. Contact: Eileen Martin 3.8 Does your association effectively identify applicants' and tenants' support needs? Does your association need to review the way it works with local authorities and other agencies to identify support needs? Are the support needs of nominations identified at the time of nomination? Are there structures and procedures in place for multidisciplinary assessment of a client with complex and multiple needs? How effective and timely are the referral routes into tenancy and floating support? Does the association conduct a regular review of all cases receiving tenancy or floating support to ensure arrangements for those ready to move off support are working effectively? Is the number of cases receiving support who become homeless monitored? Can the association identify where there are gaps in support required to prevent homelessness and is this information provided to Supporting People commissioning teams? 19 st 1 February 2008 Good Example Patchwork Community Housing Association uses a Multiple Needs Assessment & Support Management Package to make a sound assessment whether an individual has support needs that are too high, or too low to be appropriate to the scheme that they have been referred to. This minimises inappropriate lettings. The assessment form is flexible. There are a range of headings and staff can vary and/or update parts within the overall framework. The package: allows staff not familiar with a client to quickly and easily understand all the key issues; ensures a degree of consistency in assessing clients; helps to ensure that young people engage with their support arrangements; and provides for access to basic skills and other training provided by Patchwork in-house; and other services such as GPs, drug advice agencies, mental health teams, etc. Good Example Kingfisher Housing Association has a Vulnerable Persons Policy that aims to sustain tenancies through early intervention and the involvement of other agencies. The policy should reduce rent arrears and levels of anti- social behaviour. Contact: Carol Williams Good Example Derwent Living employs a Support Co-ordinator who maintains a database of all the advice and support services available in the association‟s area of operation so this information is easily available to frontline staff. Contact: Richard Clarke 3.9 What gaps has your association identified in services provided to prevent or tackle homelessness? How can you respond? Hostels / Supported housing Is a strategy in place to monitor and take action where there is evidence of hostels ‘silting up’? Is there any monitoring of the outcomes of hostel residents when they leave hostels? Services targeted at groups vulnerable to homelessness Hospital referral and discharge initiatives 20 st 1 February 2008 Good Example Telford and Wrekin Council contracts with Telford Christian Council's STAY project to provide housing options advice for 16-25 year olds. Two Homeless Investigation Officers (HIOs) familiar with working with young adults carry out a prevention of homelessness service and take homelessness applications on the Council's behalf. HIOs are based in the STAY drop-in centre and emergency housing project for local young people. They work with young people and their families to prevent homelessness, investigate their circumstances and provide advice on housing options. Provides emergency accommodation and a young person may move in whilst homeless investigations are completed. Young people can be referred to the local mediation scheme and can access deposit bonds to enter the private rented sector. The project has a protocol with Connexions. Contact: Kathy Jones, Telford & Wrekin Council 3.10 Does your association sufficiently tackle homelessness amongst black and minority ethnic communities? How could you do more? Analysing lettings and those housed as homeless to identify trends amongst BME communities. Services targeted to BME communities. Working with specialist associations to meet the needs of black and minority ethnic communities. Good Example Whitefriars Housing Group identified that a high number of refugees leaving National Asylum Seekers Scheme supported accommodation were staying with friends or relatives as they had not been able to obtain rented accommodation on their own. Additional points were awarded within the lettings scheme to place customers who are sharing or lacking basic facilities more favourably on the waiting list. It was felt that this customer group needed to be awarded more points so they did not only receive offers for difficult to let areas. Contact: Gaynor Reynolds Good Example Ashram Housing Association provides a culturally appropriate service in Birmingham targeted at South Asian women who have been temporarily rehoused in homeless centres, hostels, bed and breakfast and refuges. The service: Uses a one stop needs assessment process, reducing the need for individuals to repeatedly explain and relive their experiences. Provides information and action planning. Provides practical support and guidance to enable women to obtain permanent solutions to homelessness. Provides housing options work with other housing providers. Advocates on behalf of the women. Contact: Amanda Nicholls 21 st 1 February 2008 Good Example Trafford Housing Group has a group of seven community mentors who provide support and advice to people from BME backgrounds who are at risk of becoming homeless. They are trained and co-ordinated by the Trust‟s black and minority ethnic homelessness champion. The scheme is funded by the government‟s ethnic minority innovation fund. Contact: Aysha Qasim 22 st 1 February 2008 Theme 4: Making better use of existing stock "We will encourage housing associations to make better use of existing housing stock, including reducing under- occupation, bringing empty homes back into use, tackling overcrowding and exploring the scope to convert temporary tenancies into settled homes." 'Tackling Homelessness'; The Housing Corporation, 2006 4.1 Could you improve your performance on relet times for empty homes to provide more accommodation that could help homeless families? Average days vacant for relets - CORE 2006/07 England 35.7 London 41.7 South East 27.7 South West 28.7 East Midlands 36.4 East 29.7 West Midlands 32.7 Yorks & Humber 43.7 North East 36.8 North West 39.4 Merseyside 40.5 Good Example The Bromford Housing Group has short relet times. Some of the factors that contribute to this performance are: Visiting all those moving from their homes; Making full use of the 28 day notice period; Using key safes over doors of properties so contractors have easy access to complete repairs; Offering a £50 incentive for tenants to clear their homes and return their fuel cards; and Ensuring there is sufficient fuel to allow checks and repairs to be completed. Contact: Christine Gibson 4.2 How does your association check the occupancy of its homes to ensure that they are being targeted to those in housing need and not sub-let? Do you need to change your approach? Where illegal occupiers are discovered, are you working closely with the local authority to proactively rehouse the occupier rather than sending them down the homelessness route? 4.3 Does your association have data to be able to identify those households who under- occupying their homes or who are overcrowded? Have included appropriate questions in any recent tenant census? Can you report on this data to be able to identify the locations or types of households where under-occupation or overcrowding may be concentrated? 23 st 1 February 2008 4.4 How does your association address under occupation? Do you need to learn from good practice what makes schemes effective? Have targets been set for properties freed up through an under-occupation scheme? Good Example Gallions Housing Association hosts a pilot under-occupation scheme for the South East London Housing Partnership, which consists of 5 London Boroughs and 12 housing associations. The scheme targets under- occupiers and assists them to move, utilising the released property to house an overcrowded household from the same landlord‟s stock, with the resulting property allocated to the host local authority to nominate a household. Contact: Nina Morris 4.4 How does your association address overcrowding? Do you need to learn from good practice what makes schemes effective? Is the association aware of the extent of overcrowding in its stock? Is overcrowding reflected in the lettings policy? How is the association responding to the CLG Overcrowding Action Plan published in December 2007? 4.5 How does your association approach maximising the contribution of the private sector in increasing housing supply and tackling homelessness? Good Example Wrekin Housing Trust operates Opendoor which is a lettings and property management agency for private landlords. The service has been successful through offering: A management and find only letting service, „Approved‟ tenant service, Packages to lease properties, and A management support service. Contact: Jane Brookes 4.6 Is your association involved in any type of rent deposit scheme with the private sector as a preventative option? If so, what is the impact and how could it more effective? Who is the scheme open to? - Statutory homeless cases where a full duty has been applied - Non-priority homeless households - Intentionally homeless households - Drug users/offenders? How many new rent deposit tenancies have been obtained in the last 12 months? Is there a housing benefit package available to support the scheme? 24 st 1 February 2008 Good Example Midland Heart's Multiple Needs Unit for men has reduced the number of rough sleepers in Birmingham. As managing agent of the Birmingham Bond Scheme it creates 140 private tenancies each year, targeting people in temporary accommodation. It moves entrenched rough sleepers into permanent accommodation through its First Step scheme. Contact: Steve Philpott Good Example Trafford Housing Trust operates a rent and bond scheme as part of a range of housing options to assist households in housing need. The Housing Options Team provides advice to households to help them to find suitable housing in the private sector. The scheme then provides a bond agreement and can pay a months rent in advance if the household is eligible for Housing Benefit. Contact: Rebecca Ernill 4.7 How does your association work with local authorities to bring empty properties back into use? Could you become more involved? Managing properties acquired through Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMO). 4.8 Does your association provide temporary accommodation? If so, are procedures in place for inspecting the quality of temporary accommodation and the occupancy? Is this reported back to your local authority partners? Have written standards been set for the quality of all temporary accommodation? What are the association's procedures for dealing with fraud in its temporary accommodation? 4.9 Do you use any of your owned stock for temporary accommodation? How are you converting this to permanent housing? Is the association seeking to convert temporary accommodation into settled homes where appropriate? Is the association working with local authorities on qualified offers? Are you working with the local authorities to understand their supply and demand needs to ensure that your business is not adversely affected by the drive to achieve the temporary accommodation reduction target? 4.10 Do you have any temporary to permanent / settled schemes or plans to develop these in the future? 25 st 1 February 2008 Theme 5: Directing investment "We will work with Regional Housing Boards to direct our investment funds towards improving access to housing where there is housing need, with a strong focus on meeting the needs of black and minority ethnic households and vulnerable people, providing larger homes and encouraging mobility, while balancing the demands of regional housing strategies." 'Tackling Homelessness'; The Housing Corporation, 2006 5.1 How does your association make use of information relating to housing need and homelessness in growth strategies and designing the services to be delivered? Do you have enough data to do this? Is the association aware of the homelessness and temporary accommodation data for the local authorities in which it operates? This data can be found on the Communities and Local Government website (www.communities.gov.uk). 5.2 Is your association's development programme targeted at tackling homelessness? Does your association sufficiently assess the impact of its developments in contributing to tackling homelessness and meeting local housing need? Is the type, location and tenure of new development tackling homelessness and overcrowding? 5.3 Does your association access a sufficient range of funding streams to deliver homes and services to tackle homelessness? Do you need to find out more? 5.4 Is your association reviewing its stock holding to allow it to concentrate on making a greater impact on meeting housing needs within specific areas? Do you need to change the use of some stock or dispose of some of it to another provider who could make a greater impact? Is the association rationalising its stock by ownership or management? 5.5 Is your association linked into the Places of Change Programme to improve the quality of your hostel provision? Good Example Midland Heart's Snow Hill is a large direct access hostel. They have designed a reception area that resembles a hotel lobby that provides and welcoming but safe entrance to the building. Contact: Steve Philpott Good Example The Look Ahead Dock Street hostel has a library established by a resident who also set up a database and lending system. The hostel also provides a gym that has the correct equipment and induction process so users do not need to be supervised. 26 st 1 February 2008 Theme 6: Good practice "We will identify, learn from and promote the best examples of good practice and support associations and other social landlords to raise performance standards and deliver high quality services to residents." 'Tackling Homelessness'; The Housing Corporation, 2006 6.1 What would your association highlight as its good practice in relation to tackling homelessness? Would you be willing to speak at events about your good practice? Does the association publicise its good practice? 6.2 On what issues could you learn from good practice examples? Do you know how to access such examples? 6.3 How will your association continue to engage with the Housing Corporation's Homelessness Action Team and how can it assist you to continue to develop your services? 27 st 1 February 2008 Good practice / guidance publications The following may be useful to refer to when developing any actions plans. THE HOUSING CORPORATION www.housingcorp.gov.uk Access to housing information sharing protocol (2007) Investing in independence; Housing for vulnerable people strategy (2007) Tackling Homelessness; the Housing Corporation Strategy (2006) Good Practice Note 12: Choice Based Lettings. (2006) Homelessness Prevention and Housing Associations - Contributing to Efficiency (2006) Tenancy management: eligibility and evictions. Circular 07/04 (2004) Good Practice Note 8: Equality and Diversity (2004) Local Authority Nominations. Circular 02/03 (2003) Good Practice Note 4: Race Equality and Diversity (2002) COMMUNTIES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT www.communities.gov.uk Homelessness prevention: a guide to good practice (2006) Options for setting up a sanctuary scheme (2006) OFFICE OF THE DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER www.communities.gov.uk ODPM - Homelessness Sustainable Communities: settled homes, changing lives. A strategy for tackling homelessness (2005) Tackling homelessness amongst ethnic minority households – a development guide (2005) Resources for homeless ex-service personnel in London (2004) Effective Co-operation in Tackling Homelessness: Nomination Agreements and Exclusions (2004) Achieving Positive Shared Outcomes in Health and Homelessness (2004) Local Authorities' Homelessness Strategies: Evaluation and Good Practice (2004) Reducing B&B use and tackling homelessness - What's working: A Good Practice Handbook (2003) Housing Associations and Homelessness Briefing (2003) Addressing the health needs of rough sleepers (2002) Care leaving strategies – a good practice handbook (2002) Drugs services for homeless people – a good practice handbook (2002) Homelessness Strategies: A Good Practice Handbook (2002) More than a roof: a report into tackling homelessness (2002) ODPM Homelessness and Housing Support Directorate Policy Briefings Briefing 14: Sustainable Communities: settled homes; changing lives - One Year On (March 2006) Briefing 13: Survey of English local authorities about homelessness (December 2005) Briefing 12: Hostels Capital Improvement Programme (HCIP) (September 2005) Briefing 11: Providing More Settled Homes (June 2005) Briefing 10: Delivering on the Positive Outcomes (December 2004) Briefing 9: Homelessness Strategies: Moving Forward (November 2004) Briefing 8: Improving the Quality of Hostels and Other Forms of Temporary Accommodation (June 2004) Briefing 7: Addressing the Health Needs of Homeless People Policy (April 2004) Briefing 6: Repeat Homelessness Policy (January 2004) Briefing 5: Improving Employment Options for Homeless People (September 2003 Briefing 4: Prevention of Homelessness Policy (June 2003) 28 st 1 February 2008 Briefing 3: Bed and Breakfast Policy (March 2003) Briefing 2: Domestic Violence Policy (December 2002) Briefing 1: Ethnicity and Homelessness Policy (September 2002) ODPM Supporting People publications www.spkweb.org.uk Supporting People: Guide to Accommodation and Support Options for People with Mental Health Problems (2005) Guide to Housing and Housing Related Support Options for Offenders and People at Risk of Offending (2005) Supporting People: Guide to Accommodation and Support Options for Homeless Households (2003) Supporting People: The Support Needs of Homeless Households (2003) Supporting People: Guide to Accommodation and Support Options for Households Experiencing Domestic Violence (2002) Reflecting the Needs and Concerns of Black and Minority Ethnic Communities in Supporting People (2002) Other ODPM publications Sustainable Communities: Homes for All. A Five Year Plan (2005) Improving the Effectiveness of Rent Arrears Management (2005) The use of possession actions and evictions by social landlords (2005) Housing Allocation, Homelessness and Stock Transfer - A guide to key issues (2004) Allocation of Accommodation - Code of Guidance for local housing authorities (2002) Working together, Connexions and youth homelessness agencies, London, Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (DTLR) and Connexions (2001) Audit Commission www.audit-commission.gov.uk Homelessness, Responding to the New Agenda (2003) Housing Services After Stock Transfer (2002) Chartered Institute of Housing www.cih.org The Housing Manual (2005) Housing and Support Services for asylum seekers and refugees: a good practice guide, John Perry (2005) Strategic Approaches to Homelessness; Good Practice Briefing 24 (2002) Commission for Racial Equality www.cre.gov.uk CRE Code of Practice on Racial Equality in Housing, the Commission for Racial Equality (2006) National Housing Federation www.housing.org.uk Level threshold: towards equality in housing for disabled people: good practice guide (2005) Flexible allocation and local letting schemes (2000) 29
"Reviewing your Homelessness Strategy and Tackling Homelessness - A "