What will the Homelessness Reduction Act mean for Redbridge?

A person sleeps rough in freezing temperatures on Clements Road. Photo: Aaron Walawalkar

A person sleeps rough in freezing temperatures on Clements Road. Photo: Aaron Walawalkar - Credit: Archant

Redbridge council now have a legal duty to offer more help to people at risk of homelessness.

Over the next three years, the government is giving Redbridge council £866,066 out of a £72m pot to help local authorities comply with the new legal duties placed on them by the Homeless Reduction Act (HRA), which came into effect on Tuesday, April 3.

In November 2017, government statistics revealed the borough to have the 11th highest in rate of homelessness in the country with an estimated 6,197 people in temporary accommodation and 60 rough sleepers.

In January, the number of rough sleepers grew to 65.

Redbridge charities have welcomed the HRA’s focus on homelessness prevention - intervening before people end up sleeping on the streets.

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But they have also warned that, without proper funding, the Act will place impossible pressures on local authorities already stretched in their efforts to manage the problem.

The legislation requires councils to act twice as early to help residents threatened with homelessness - within 56 days rather 28.

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It also requires council to provide “meaningful assistance” to all homeless people, regardless of “priority need”.

Currently, people who are homeless but not considered priority need - likely to be single people without children - are eligible only for advice and assistance

Now, councils must help all homeless applicants eligible for support to find accommodation within six months, unless they are transferred to another local authority as they have no local connection.

The Recorder spoke with the council’s housing department and homelessness charities to understand what this new legal framework will mean for the borough.

“The new legislation represents a major change in the way we deal with those at risk of homelessness,” said Karen Shaw, the council’s head of housing needs.

Commenting on whether the funds provided by central government are sufficient, she said: “Certainly the amount we have been allocated is less than we had assessed we might need when we were modelling the potential impacts as the legislation progressed through Parliament.”

To meet these new legal duties Ms Shaw said the council is producing new advice and information for customers, commissioning new IT and has moved to a new multi-service centre at Lynton House for residents to access services in one place.

They are also briefing their partners - including day centre The Welcome Project - in the Act.

The Welcome Project, in St Mary’s Road, offers rough sleepers everything from laundry services to employment support.

“I think the HRA has huge potential to reduce homelessness,” said project manager Sonia Lynch.

“Whilst it won’t produce more houses or look at resources that local authorities have - it will put the duty on local authorities to work with someone who is homeless or threatened with homelessness and not just turn them away, with no advice or support.”

She added: “I’m not sure how well the HRA will address the needs of entrenched rough sleepers but it does give the opportunity to work with people on a clearly defined personal housing plan that takes into account individual needs, diversity and difference.”

Anticipating how the Act may affect their work, Ms Lynch added that The Welcome Project staff can support people in achieving their personal housing plans and for housing services to work more directly in the community by providing satellite housing clinics in day centres such theirs.

The Ilford Salvation Army (SA), in Clements Road, run a housing legal advice clinic for people threatened with homelessness, among other services.

Welcoming the HRA, Ilford SA captain John Clifton said: “Having 56 days enables us to check-in earlier with the council to ensure proper support is in place before the person actually ends up on the street, which helps organisations like us.”

He added: “It does press the local authority to help people but I agree that there is not enough funding to implement what it asked.

“With additional funding I think that they would be able to deliver.”

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