Reviewing your Homelessness Strategy and Tackling Homelessness - A

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Reviewing your Homelessness Strategy and Tackling Homelessness - A Powered By Docstoc
					March 2010

March 2010

             Page 1 of 27
March 2010

Homelessness toolkit
Tackling homelessness and the related issues around generating a wider range of housing
options, reducing overcrowding and financial inclusion clearly play an important role in
improving the quality of life of tenants and prospective tenants.

This toolkit aims to assist landlords to review the services looking at their impact on
preventing and tackling homelessness, reflecting the changing environment and national
policy developments to help housing associations, local authority landlords and ALMOs. 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. It provides a good basis for the development of a
homelessness action plan.

The Homelessness Action Team
This toolkit was developed by the Homelessness Action Team (HAT). The team operated
between January 2007 and March 2010 as a project jointly funded by Communities and Local
Government (CLG) and the Housing Corporation and then the Tenant Services Authority (TSA)
when the Housing Corporation ceased operating. The team encouraged and supported local
authorities in London and social landlords across England to do more to prevent and tackle

The team highlighted the importance of tackling homelessness, identifying and promoting
good practice around partnership working, preventing homelessness and making the best use
of all the housing that is available. To support this work the team completed a number of
projects and produced a range of guidance and discussion documents that can now be found
on the TSA‟s website;

The TSA‟s resources available to work with individual housing organisations around
homelessness are more limited since the HAT stopped operating. However, the Homelessness
and Allocations Lead at the TSA co-ordinates the approach of the organisation around
homelessness issues and is the point of contact who can provide some initial advice and
signpost sources of good practice.

Using the toolkit
   There is a set of main questions under each of the key themes. 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 that you can use to complete a more in depth review if you
   Good practice examples are provided to illustrate the range of ways that some
    organisations have tackled the issues that you may face. 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.
   Some key data is provided to help you to benchmark your services.
   Please don't just fill in answers under each heading to satisfy yourself that you do enough.

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   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.
   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.

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.

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Theme 1: Better partnership working

1.1       How well does your organisation work in partnership with local authorities
          and other partners in agreeing strategies, especially relating to
          homelessness? How can you improve your strategic working?

         Which other organisations do you identify as stakeholders / partners?
         Does your organisation 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 organisation 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
         Have you considered stock rationalisation in areas where you have minimal stock?
         Has your organisation positively signed-up to any local, regional or sub-regional
          homelessness strategies or action plans?
         Does your organisation provide information to local authority partners on its
          performance in tackling homelessness?
         Is your organisation 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: Mick Gallagher

1.2       How well does your organisation 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 do you identify as stakeholders / partners?
         Are there disputes operationally over services for homeless people?
         Are there arrangements for joint delivery of services?
         Are there nominated lead officers who regularly liaise to ensure there is effective co-
          operation at an operational level?
         Is training provided for your frontline staff to make them aware of local housing
          options services and local advice and support services?
         Are there formal methods to refer a household to the local housing options service
          together with agreed timescales in which these referrals should be made?
         What would promote better partnership working?
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         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 organisation'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
          actions agreed as a result?
         Do you discuss these results with your local authority partners?

1.4       What percentage of lettings by your organisation 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?
         Is this above or below the national and regional averages?
         Is this in line with your nominations agreements?

             Housing association general needs lettings as a result of local
             authority nominations - CORE 2008/09
             England                                                        55.6%
             London                                                         69.3%
             South East                                                     76.3%
             South West                                                     75.6%
             East Midlands                                                  62.8%
             East                                                           70.2%
             West Midlands                                                  51.5%
             Yorks & Humber                                                 49.8%
             North East                                                     39.1%
             North West                                                     29.5%

         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 organisation‟s Board?

1.5       What percentage of lettings does your organisation 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 organisation let to people who would otherwise need to make a
          homelessness declaration?
         Do you know the numbers of people being found to be statutorily homeless in the
          main areas in which your organisation operates?
         Are there good homelessness prevention services in your main areas of operation
          leading to fewer statutorily homeless households seeking accommodation?
         Are these figures reported to the organisation‟s Board?

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             Housing association general needs lettings to statutorily homeless
             - CORE 2008/09
             England                                                      16.5%
             London                                                       28.1%
             South East                                                   17.2%
             South West                                                   19.8%
             East Midlands                                                15.0%
             East                                                         21.2%
             West Midlands                                                16.9%
             Yorks & Humber                                               12.7%
             North East                                                    9.4%
             North West                                                   10.9%

1.6       Do your nominations agreements (if applicable) 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 organisation receive sufficient information with nominations to ensure that
          appropriate offers are made and the need for advice and support is identified?
         Does the organisation monitor its performance against the agreements?
         Does the organisation meet with local authorities to discuss nominations?

          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.

          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

          Contact: Angela O‟Callaghan

1.7       Does your organisation have information sharing protocols with local
          authorities that provide nominations? If not, how can you approach
          developing such protocols?

          Good Example
          The Housing Corporation published the „Access to housing information
          sharing protocol‟ in 2007. 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

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          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
           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;
           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 old Housing Corporation website.

1.8       Has your organisation 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.
         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

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          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
              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

          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 organisation 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 organisation used the guidance on the role of Homelessness Champions
          written by the Homelessness Action Team?

1.10      Has your organisation written a homelessness action plan or do you plan to
          write an action plan? If so, when will it be completed?

         Has the organisation used the guidance provided by the homelessness action plan
          template written by the Homelessness Action Team?
         Have you consulted your key local authority partners to ensure your plan is in line with
          local priorities?
         Is the organisation involved in any regional or sub-regional partnership working to
          share resources to achieve common actions?

          Good Example
          The Norfolk RSL Alliance 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: Mark Jones, Wherry Housing Association

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1.11   Is your organisation involved in the development of an Area Housing Plan?

       Good Example
       Hillingdon, Hackney, Swindon, Bristol and Exeter councils have been
       part of a pilot to develop Area Housing Plans that drew together partners to
       gain a shared understanding of the key local issues around homelessness
       and the housing reform agenda, agree key actions on shared priorities and
       monitor progress. Area Housing Plans aim to be very practical and to
       concentrate on delivery.

       Some of the lessons from the pilots were:
        There is the opportunity to make greater reductions in the number of
          homeless households in temporary accommodation.
        The need to have good baseline information on the range of services
          available in an area.
        Key data, collected consistently, is vital to understand local issues and
        The development of shared SMART actions to stretch current
        Agreement to joint performance monitoring and reporting.

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Theme 2:                 Sustainable and mixed communities

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 organisation 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
          - Home contents insurance
          - Reduced energy costs
          - 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 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
         Review existing partnering arrangements and procedures to change the focus of
          advice from reactive crisis management to preventative advice.
         Signpost to specialist agencies.

          Good Example
          The Chartered Institute of Housing runs an online financial inclusion
          network to help housing professionals share ways to help tenants manage
          their money better and avoid falling into debt.

          The community network allows housing professionals to share ideas and
          initiatives which help tenants to open bank accounts, access affordable
          credit, obtain money advice and become more financially aware. Examples
          of good practice include a housing organisation employing a dedicated
          Money Advisor, which has reduced rent arrears and achieved 100 per cent
          satisfaction from tenants using the service. The Financial Services Authority
          and Barclays fund two full-time Financial Inclusion Advisors based at the
          CIH, whose work with housing organisations reaches some of the most

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      vulnerable and low-income households in the UK. The CIH Practice Network
      on Financial Inclusion is live at . To join
      individuals should email .

      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
         Helps people with applications and prepares them for interviews and
          their first day at work.
         Having started in 2005, the scheme has helped over 2,000 people into

      Contact: Julie Wedgwood

      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.

      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

      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.

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          Contact: Andrew Church

          Good Example
          Wakefield and District Housing maintains a website to help financially
          excluded tenants. 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 organisation consult with local authorities when agreeing its allocations /
          lettings policy?
         Has the organisation sought the views of applicants on the lettings policy and
          application process?
         How easy is it to access the organisation's lettings scheme?
         What is the organisation's approach to exclusions (rent arrears and ASB)? Where an
          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.

          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.

         How does the policy prioritise housing need including homelessness and
         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?
         Do you ask for rent in advance from new tenants, potentially discriminating against
          homeless households who may be in receipt of Housing Benefit and may not be able
          to pay rent in advance?

2.4       Is your organisation 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 organisation is not involved in CBL, why not?
         Is your organisation clear on what it wants to achieve and the outcomes it expects
          through being part of a CBL scheme?

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         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
         Is there a Common Housing Register in operation in your areas of operation? Are you
          involved? If not why not?

              Housing association general needs lettings through Choice
              Based Lettings - CORE 2008/09
              England                                                  46.4%
              London                                                   62.2%
              South East                                               38.0%
              South West                                               48.9%
              East Midlands                                            40.5%
              East                                                     49.5%
              West Midlands                                            51.2%
              Yorks & Humber                                           48.4%
              North East                                               21.7%
              North West                                               47.4%

          Good Example
          Oxford City Council operates a common housing register. A key element
          is the development of a Partnership Board to oversee the operation of the
          register. Oxford City Council (a stock retaining authority) and partner
          housing associations have equal representation at this Board. The Board
          meet quarterly and receive reports on performance, including exception
          reporting from any association that does not allocate 100% of lettings
          through the Partnership.

          Contact: Dave Scholes, Oxford City Council

2.5       How does your organisation operate local lettings policies and how do they
          impact on tackling homelessness? Is a review of your local lettings policies

         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?
         Do your local lettings policies have clear aims and methods to monitor their impact?
         Are local lettings policies agreed with local authorities and other organisations
          operating in the area?
         Are local lettings policies time limited?
         Are local lettings policies linked with other measures such as more intensive housing
          management, community promises, or starter tenancies?

          Good Example
          The Bromford Housing Group has a policy on how local lettings policies
          should be agreed and monitored. It includes the data and consultation that
          should be considered prior to establishing a local lettings policy, the need to
          have clear aims and how to monitor the impact of the policy.

          Contact: Mike Gallagher

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2.6       Does your organisation operate starter tenancies and how do they impact
          on tackling homelessness?

         Are starter tenancies used across all lettings or only in certain areas?
         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
         Does your organisation provide more intensive housing management during this
          period to identify the need for advice and support to minimise the chances of a starter
          tenancy failing?
         Do you monitor the failure rate of tenancies and learn from the reasons?

          Good Example
          Devon and Cornwall Housing Association has a clear procedure on
          starter tenancies including:
           when they will be used,
           the pre-tenancy customer risk assessment that should be completed,
           the actions that should be completed during the tenancy, including
               regular visits,
           what will happen when there is a breach of the tenancy,
           decision making processes,
           involving other agencies,
           the appeals process and how the impact of starter tenancies will be
               monitored, and
           a large suite of standard letters, forms and leaflets that can be used.

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Theme 3:                Preventing homelessness

3.1       Is there Board level commitment to tackle homelessness? Do you need a
          Board discussion specifically on homelessness?

         Has there been a Board report summarising the organisation'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 organisation's Corporate
          objectives? If not, why not?

         Is this reflected in other plans or work programmes?
         Is homelessness discussed in management meetings or in a specific team meeting

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?
              Current tenant arrears - Is there sufficient advice and support to avoid
               people going into debt?
              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).
                       The national figure during 2008/09 was 0.49%
              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 rent 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 organisation 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?
         Does the organisation follow the pre-court protocol for arrears possession cases?
         How does the organisation pursue rent arrears where there may be current Housing
          Benefit application?
         What is the organisation's approach to the use of Ground 8?
         Has the organisation agreed any protocols with local authorities on those cases
          threatened with eviction?
         Has the organisation 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?

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      Has the organisation 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
        £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 Service Manager who trains staff on
       benefit issues and liaises regularly with local authority housing benefit staff
       to minimise the number of evictions.

       Contact: Simon Brooke

       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

       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.

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March 2010

3.5       How does your organisation minimise the number of repossessions of
          shared ownership homes?

         Do you engage with shared owners in such a way to encourage them to contact you if
          they are having difficulty in maintaining their mortgage and / or rent payments?
         Can you offer a similar level of advice and support to your shared owners as you do to
          your tenants?
         Does your organisation have a flexible tenure policy to allow people to reduce the
          share they own in their home to make their mortgage payments more manageable?
         Are you aware of the protocol between the Council of Mortgage Lenders and the
          National Housing Federation through which mortgage providers and housing
          associations agree to notify each other when shared owners are two months in arrears
          with their mortgage or rent payments?

          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

3.6       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 organisation identify the need for advice and support early enough to
          allow it to be effective?
         Can your organisation offer options to people to help them rather than making a
          homelessness application?
         Are support services in place to help people who are perpetrators of anti-social
         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
          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: Kate Forrester

                                           Page 17 of 27
March 2010

          Good Example
          Housing associations in Birmingham 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.

          Contact: Jenny Calderbank at Castle Vale Community Housing Association

          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: Iaeun Aprees –West London Housing Partnership.

3.7       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?
         Do you explore other housing options with those seeking an adaptation?

3.8       How does your organisation provide housing advice that may help to reduce
          homelessness? Is the advice sufficiently preventative in its approach?

         Does the organisation 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 organisation's area is there any
          referral protocol or Service Level Agreement in place?
         Does the organisation have access to a mediation service that can assist in preventing
         Have front line staff been trained on homelessness legislation and prevention of

          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

          Contact: Eileen Martin

3.9       Does your organisation effectively identify applicants' and tenants' support
          needs? Does your organisation need to review the way it works with local
          authorities and other agencies to identify support needs?

         Is there a procedure to identify the need for advice and support of new tenants and
          application stage and early in the tenancy?
         Are the support needs of nominations identified at the time of nomination?

                                         Page 18 of 27
March 2010

         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 organisation 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 organisation identify where there are gaps in support required to prevent
          homelessness and is this information provided to Supporting People commissioning

          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 organisation identified in services provided to prevent
          or tackle homelessness? How can you respond?

         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?

                                           Page 19 of 27
March 2010

       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.

3.10   Is you organisation linked into the National Mortgage Rescue Scheme?

      Is your organisation a zone agent for the scheme?
      Do your frontline staff know how to refer people to the scheme if they are approached
       by people experiencing difficulties in making their mortgage payments?
      Does your organisation offer other measures to help owners such as flexible tenure
       and buy-back schemes?

3.11   Does your organisation sufficiently tackle homelessness amongst black and
       minority ethnic communities? How could you do more?

      Do you analyse lettings and those housed as homeless to identify trends amongst BME
      What services do you provide targeted to BME communities?
      Do you work with specialist organisations to meet the needs of black and minority
       ethnic communities.

       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
           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

                                      Page 20 of 27
March 2010

Theme 4:                 Making better use of existing stock

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 2008/09
             England                                                         33.6   days
             London                                                          43.7   days
             South East                                                      28.2   days
             South West                                                      29.2   days
             East Midlands                                                   38.2   days
             East                                                            29.6   days
             West Midlands                                                   29.6   days
             Yorks & Humber                                                  37.7   days
             North East                                                      30.9   days
             North West                                                      37.3   days

          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

          Contact: Mick Gallagher

4.2       How does your organisation 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?

         Is your organisation working with the National Fraud Initiative?
         Where unlawful 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 organisation have data to be able to identify those households
          who under-occupying their homes or who are overcrowded?

         Have you 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?

4.4       How does your organisation 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?

                                          Page 21 of 27
March 2010

          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

4.5       How does your organisation address overcrowding? Do you need to learn
          from good practice what makes schemes effective?

         Is the organisation aware of the extent of overcrowding in its stock?
         Is overcrowding reflected in the lettings policy?
         How is the organisation responding to the CLG Overcrowding Action Plan published in
          December 2007?

          The HAT produced a toolkit specifically on tackling overcrowding that you
          should use to review your approach to overcrowding and under-occupation
          in greater detail.

4.6       How does your organisation approach maximising the contribution of the
          private sector in increasing housing supply and tackling homelessness?

4.7       Is your organisation 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?

          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.

4.8       How does your organisation 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).

                                        Page 22 of 27
March 2010

4.9       Does your organisation 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 organisation's procedures for dealing with fraud in its temporary

4.10      Do you use any of your owned stock for temporary accommodation? How
          are you converting this to permanent housing?

         Is the organisation seeking to convert temporary accommodation into settled homes
          where appropriate?
         Is the organisation 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?

                                         Page 23 of 27
March 2010

Theme 5:                Directing investment

5.1       How does your organisation 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 organisation 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 (

5.2       Is your organisation's development programme targeted at tackling
          homelessness and overcrowding? Does your organisation 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

5.3       Is your organisation 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?

5.4       Is your organisation linked into the Places of Change Programme to
          improve the quality of your hostel provision?

          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.

                                         Page 24 of 27
March 2010

Theme 6:                 Good practice

6.1       What would your organisation highlight as its good practice in relation to
          tackling homelessness? Would you be willing to speak at events about your
          good practice?

         Does the organisation publicise its good practice?

6.2       On what issues could you learn from good practice examples? Do you know
          how to access such examples?

                                          Page 25 of 27
March 2010

Good practice / guidance publications

The following may be useful to refer to when developing any actions plans.

The Tenant Services Authority
 Overcrowding and under-occupation; self assessment for social landlords (2009)

The Housing Corporation
 Behind closed doors; providing services to those at risk of domestic violence (2008)
 Good Practice Note 16: Working with local authorities (2008)
 Choice, lettings and homelessness in the South West (2008)
 Access to housing information sharing protocol (2007)
 Investing in independence; housing for vulnerable people strategy (2007)
 Circular 02/07 - Tenancy management: eligibility and evictions (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)
 Good Practice Note 8: equality and diversity (2004)
 Circular 02/03 - Local authority nominations. (2003)
 Good Practice Note 4: Race equality and diversity (2002)

Communties and Local Government
 Tackling unlawful subletting and occupancy; good practice guidance for social landlords
 Homelessness prevention and meeting housing need for (ex)offenders; a guide to
   practice (2009)
 No-one left out: communities ending rough sleeping (2008)
 Making a difference: supported lodgings as a housing option for young people (2008)
 Allocation of accommodation: choice based lettings – Code of guidance for local housing
   authorities (2008)
 Tackling overcrowding in England: lessons from the London pilot schemes and sub-
   regional co-ordination (2008)
 Tackling overcrowding in England; an action plan (2007)
 Places of Change – tackling homelessness through the Hostels Capital Improvement
   Programme (2007)
 Homelessness prevention: a guide to good practice (2006)
 Options for setting up a sanctuary scheme (2006)
 The National Youth Homelessness Scheme website:

Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
 Sustainable communities: Homes for all. A five year plan (2005)
 Sustainable communities: settled homes, changing lives. A strategy for tackling
    homelessness (2005)
 Tackling homelessness amongst ethnic minority households – a development guide

                                      Page 26 of 27
March 2010

   Improving the effectiveness of rent arrears management (2005)
   The use of possession actions and evictions by social landlords (2005)
   Resources for homeless ex-service personnel in London (2004)
   Effective co-operation in tackling homelessness: nomination agreements and exclusions
   Achieving positive shared outcomes in health and homelessness (2004)
   Care leaving strategies – a good practice handbook (2002)
   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)

Chartered Institute of Housing
 Tackling worklessness: a toolkit (2008)

Equality and Human Rights Commission
 CRE Code of practice on racial equality in housing (2006)

National Housing Federation
 Guidance for handling arrears and possession sales of shared ownership properties
 Financial inclusion in social housing: policy into practice (2008)

                                      Page 27 of 27

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