As part of our partnership work, we recently attended a training session on the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, hosted by SIFA Fireside and The Central England Law Centre’s Community of Practise group. Through the act, there are a number of new, important requirements that the Local Authority have to ensure are met in an attempt to prevent homelessness. Without becoming too technical, the key important elements being introduced are:
1.Improving the advice and information available about homelessness and the prevention of homelessness.
2.Extending the period ‘threatened with homelessness’ from 28 days to 56 days, so that the Local Authority should get involved earlier to try and prevent homelessness occurring
3.Introducing new duties to prevent and relieve homelessness for all eligible people, regardless of priority need, intentionality (and local connection).
4.Introducing assessments and personalised housing plans, setting out the actions housing authorities and individuals will take to secure accommodation.
5.Encouraging public bodies to work together to prevent and relieve homelessness through a duty to refer.
All these aim to help people, particularly the vulnerable, avoid the devastation of becoming homeless, and as an advice agency we will play our part by ensuring that people can access the information and advice they need to prevent it.
Breathe doesn’t specifically provide specialist homeless and housing advice, so we will signpost and refer people to other sources of assistance if needed. But there are also a number of ways that we can help clients to prevent homelessness. For example, helping clients to be proactive in claiming any additional benefits they may be entitled to, including additional Discretionary Housing Payments form Birmingham City Council (https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/info/20017/benefits_and_support/373/extra_help_with_your_housing_costs) , and also ensuring they are receiving all the Housing Benefit they should be. In addition, we also provide a debt advice session in partnership with Birmingham Settlement, where clients can access local specialist advice before their cases reach Court, and possession proceedings are taken due to rent arrears. For more information, please contact us on 0121 384 2333, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.