Worcestershire Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy 2019-22
On 13 August 2018, the Government published a new national Rough Sleeping Strategy which sets out its vision to halve rough sleeping by 2022 and end it by 2027. It required all local authorities in England to update their homelessness strategies and rebadge them as homelessness and rough sleeper strategies by the end of 2019. The refreshed strategies must have a stronger emphasis on rough sleeping. Local authorities are also required to publish annual action plans and report on progress.
The Worcestershire Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy 2019-2022 replaces the Worcestershire Strategic Direction for Tackling Homelessness 2018-2021.
In order to tackle homelessness comprehensively, we need to ensure that;
- There are genuinely affordable low-cost rental options for households on benefits and low paid/insecure work.
- We minimise risks for those who are most vulnerable to homelessness by focusing our prevention activities further “upstream.”
- We provide earlier, more flexible and more comprehensive responses to those in crisis/at risk of entering crisis, and provide appropriate support for homeless people whose needs go beyond homelessness.
The Worcestershire Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy 2019-22 is available to read online below and as a downloadable document.
Kevin Dicks, Chief Executive of Bromsgrove and Redditch Councils and Chair of the Worcestershire Strategic Housing Partnership
The causes of homelessness are complex, and it is often a combination of individual circumstances as well as structural issues (that are often outside of someone’s control) that lead up to crisis point.
- Develop a county wide supported housing plan
- Undertake a whole systems review of support and accommodation for people with vulnerability or disability
- Develop a ‘Housing First’ approach to provide permanent housing quickly for homeless people and then provide services as needed
- Develop an intensive support provision for those with complex needs
- Establish clear pathways into support and accommodation for people with complex needs
- Jointly commission new models of accommodation for young people and care leavers
- Establish a multi agency approach to sharing information
- Demonstrate the impact poor housing has on health and social care intervention, to promote the strategic relevance and future design of services
Worcestershire Homelessness and Rough Sleeping strategy partners
- Bromsgrove District Council
- Department For Work & Pensions
- Fortis Living
- Homes & Communities Agency
- Malvern Hills District Council
- Redditch Borough Council
- Redditch and Bromsgrove Clinical Commissioning Group
- South Worcestershire Clinical Commissioning Group
- Warwickshire and West Mercia Communiuty Rehabilitation Company
- Worcester City Council
- Worcestershire County Council
- Wychavon District Council
- Wyre Forest Clinical Commissioning Group
- Wyre Forest District Council
- What role does your organisation play in addressing rough sleeping?
- How well do we work together?
- Do we assess wider support needs?
- What gaps in provision are there?
- What does a Housing First approach mean to us?
- What should a Housing First approach look like in Worcestershire?
- What barriers are there to introducing a Housing First approach in Worcestershire?
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) says that someone is considered to be homeless if “they do not have accommodation that they have a legal right to occupy, which is accessible and physically available to them (and their household) and which it would be reasonable for them to continue to live in.”
Local Housing Authorities (LHA) are bound by various Housing Acts defining what assistance they should provide to those facing homelessness. For further details on definitions of homelessness and the legal duties please see Appendix One.
However this current legislation has been amended to further extend legal duties and these are outlined below.
Homelessness Reduction Act 2017
The Homelessness Reduction Act (HRA) 2017 significantly reformed England’s homelessness legislation by placing duties on local authorities to intervene at earlier stages to prevent and relieve homelessness in their areas. It also requires LHAs to try to help households to secure accommodation but it isn’t a duty to rehouse all homeless households.
The HRA will also impose a duty on some public authorities to refer homeless cases to LHAs and the LHAs will work with public and non-public bodies to ensure an effective referral process. It is essential LHAs are clear to partners about the range of duties we now have.
|Social economic political factors that may lead to homelessness||Consequences of homelessness|
The evidence base for this homelessness strategy is the Worcestershire Homelessness Review 2016.
The review is a comprehensive assessment of the nature and extent of homelessness across the County, developed by analysing homelessness data and the views of customers and partner organisations.
It draws a number of conclusions and recommendations which have been used to develop our approach to preventing and managing homelessness locally, and these fed directly into the development of the Worcestershire Strategic Housing Partnership Plan.
It is vital that services are developed and delivered in partnership if we are to truly prevent homelessness from an individual, structural and systemic point of view. We believe that sitting our approach firmly within the Partnership Plan is the key to achieving this, bringing together statutory, voluntary and community organisations.
Local Housing Authorities are also working with the County Council in the development of the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment. The JSNA is designed to inform decisions made locally about what services are commissioned to improve the public's health and reduce inequalities; therefore, it is vital to make sure it contains robust homelessness data and supports the county’s homelessness prevention approach.
What did the Homelessness Review tell us?
- Homelessness is increasing locally, as it is nationally. Successful prevention work across the county continues to have an impact as homelessness applications have remained relatively static whilst approaches for homelessness assistance have increased.
The impact of legislation, national policy, austerity measures and welfare reform will have a huge effect on housing options and the ability to continue preventative work at the same levels.
- Welfare reform will impact the affordability of housing. There are concerns about whether there are any affordable housing options for some households, especially large families and those under 35 in the private rented sector.
- It is becoming increasingly difficult to move people on from temporary accommodation not just due to affordability, but also due to complex or higher support needs and poor tenancy histories – both in the private and social rented sectors.
- The demand for social and affordable housing far outstrips supply, a buoyant private sector housing market means private landlords can afford to be selective.
- Pressures on temporary accommodation are set to increase with the Homelessness Reduction Act.
- The homelessness service does not adequately meet the needs of people with complex needs and the reduction in public sector budgets have meant the removal of housing related support for most homeless households.
- The ending of Assured Shorthold Tenancies continues to be a major reason for homelessness, and should become a priority for prevention work.
- The Single Person and Childless Couples service focuses on prevention work and quickly moving those newly arrived to the streets into long term housing, but there is gap in provision for continuing and entrenched rough sleepers – this will be reduced by the new MOATS service (rough sleeper outreach) commencing in April 2018.
- The Audit of Services identified a number of gaps in provision for certain client groups and also geographically. Gaps could increase as services become unviable due to further funding cuts.
- General lack of supported accommodation especially for victims of domestic abuse, young people, prison leavers and those with low level mental health or learning disabilities.
- General lack of good quality shared accommodation, particularly for young people and those under the age of 35. This is particularly acute in some areas.
Recommendations from the review
Increase the range of prevention services
- Protect and increase good quality, cost effective support services that will prevent homelessness from the earliest possible stage and equip people with the skills to establish and maintain lifelong independence (systems thinking approach).
- Develop pathways to ensure a different and more integrated approach to meet the needs of single people and families with complex needs e.g. mental and physical health, social care, substance misuse.
- Increase service provision to assist entrenched rough sleepers move off the street.
- Increase the use of tenancy ready schemes and tenancy support especially for those in private rented accommodation to improve access and to prevent homelessness.
- Explore gaps in service provision identified by the audit of services - mediation and reconciliation services, support for ex offenders, those with mental health issues, low level Learning Difficulties and Autism.
- Work with partners to improve people’s wealth and resilience to prevent homelessness occurring throughout their lives - getting people into work, provision of debt advice/financial management and maximising benefits.
- Upscale communications on housing options and support services to avoid crisis point and improve likelihood of preventing homelessness. Review whether current systems are achieving this.
Increase the supply of accommodation
- Review and expand the provision of interim accommodation and permanent affordable accommodation, particularly for large families and those under 35 who are increasingly finding it hard to access any accommodation options. This may include a local authority owned/procured property.
- Consider how to overcome the lack of supported accommodation for care leavers (especially those with complex needs) and young parents.
- Consider the lack of direct access accommodation for individuals who are homeless in an emergency.
- Improve data recording and analysis to reflect the true nature of homelessness across the County.
- Analyse the cost effectiveness of homelessness services (cost of statutory vs cost of prevention).
Through the work of the Worcestershire Homelessness Strategy 2012-17 and recommendations from the Homelessness Review, we have been able to improve services across Worcestershire. Under the four goals set out in the Homelessness Strategy 2012-2017 we have achieved the following:
- Reviewed the housing and support pathway for 16/17 year olds.
- Introduced Young People’s Pathway Workers within housing advice teams.
- Mapped out local single homeless services and implemented prison and hospital pathways.
- Developed a Mental Health and Housing Protocol.
- Established closer working arrangements with Clinical Commissioning Groups and Health and Wellbeing Boards
- Developed agreements with Registered Providers to ensure that their response to flexible tenancies and affordable rent schemes does not increase homelessness.
- Developed one set of generic information for homelessness assistance with local elements for the majority of districts.
- Developed joint arrangements on the use of temporary accommodation and Rent Deposit Schemes across the County.
- Enabled the extension of Domestic Abuse support services, protected refuge accommodation and been able to carry out Survivor and Freedom programmes.
- Improved practice and procedure across Housing Benefit and Strategic Housing.
Preventing rough sleeping
- Established No Second Night Out.
- Developed more accommodation for single homeless people including emergency crash pads and move on accommodation.
- Developed a personalised approach for entrenched rough sleepers.
- Provided an emergency shelter during extreme cold weather and provisions for severe hot weather.
- Enabled support for rough sleepers to return to the area where they can access their support networks and services.
Reducing Financial Deprivation
- Secured funding through the Homes and Communities Agency for housing development.
- Established discretionary welfare schemes across the County.
- Developed plans to mitigate the affects of welfare reform locally.
- Continued joint strategic work to implement the Homelessness Reduction Act.
- Utilising the Rough Sleepers grant of £380k to recruit homelessness prevention officers working in each district to prevent rough sleeping.
- Developing a new outreach service for entrenched rough sleepers through a joint bid led by Maggs Day Centre.
- The implementation of new data monitoring system to enable a better understanding of need and inform commissioning.
- Identification of funding to enable the continuation of the Hospital and Prison Pathway support work.
Like many Local Authority areas, the Positive Pathways Model first developed by St. Basil’s (in relation to young people) has been successfully implemented in Worcestershire. We would like to build on that success and extend the concept across all groups that might be more vulnerable to becoming homeless. The following diagram and priorities outlined in the next section explain how we will do this.
The Homelessness Monitor 2017 suggests that priorities for homelessness prevention should be based around – “upstream” prevention (preventing homelessness at the earliest stage), systemic prevention (designing services based on what is best for people in crisis) and structural prevention (mitigating the impact of things outside individual control e.g. lack of affordable housing, welfare reform).
The Partnership Plan and the Homelessness Review identified a number of priorities and actions to aim to end homelessness from these perspectives. There are also clear links with the Pathways approach we want to achieve.
The national Rough Sleeping Strategy published in 2018 is based around three principles;
- Prevention: timely support before someone becomes homeless. For example, making sure no one leaves prison without suitable accommodation in place.
- Intervention: targeted support to get people off the streets.
- Recovery: the need for accommodation and support.
These national principles are very much aligned with the priorities contained within our original homelessness strategy developed in 2018. Therefore our priorities have remained the same during the refresh;
- Prevent homelessness at a much earlier stage
- Provide flexible and comprehensive responses to those in crisis and those with complex needs
- Improve supply of/access to good quality, affordable and supported housing
The national strategy sets out a number of commitments against the three principles and a delivery plan setting out the detail. This strategy follows the same structure; this section sets out our commitments and the detailed delivery plan will be published online by the end of 2019.
Priority 1 Prevent homelessness at a much earlier stage
What do we want?
We want to prevent homelessness by identifying the key risk factors/triggers in people’s lives that can cause it, and take action at a much earlier stage.
What does this mean?
We know that individual risk factors and triggers such as poor mental or physical health, adverse childhood/early adult experiences, substance misuse, and domestic abuse can increase the risk of homelessness. Childhood poverty and geography also have a part to play in predicting homelessness.
We need to minimise the risk of homelessness for people experiencing these factors to truly prevent it happening and reoccurring throughout life, to prevent a generation of homeless people with complex needs and to improve health and wellbeing.
The Homelessness Reduction Act provides opportunity to build on our preventative work with partner organisations and to identify those at risk of homelessness at a much earlier stage. However, it is becoming clear nationally and locally that the strengthened duties within the Act have increased pressure on local authority housing teams - and will require improved cooperation across sectors to truly prevent homelessness for all of our customers.
“There must be a focus on helping people to remain in their own homes (where it is safe to do so), prevention and support services should view losing accommodation as the last resort.”
Developing Positive Pathways, St. Basil’s, 2015
By investing in proactive, front line services we will avoid crisis situations and the use of Bed and Breakfast accommodation which is expensive and unsuitable, especially when people have to be placed in temporary accommodation out of area.
What will we do?
- Develop a blueprint that sets out and quantifies the resource needed to prevent and tackle homelessness and rough sleeping for the next 5 years.
- Review the effectiveness of current referral processes to local housing authorities. There will be a specific focus on providing a rapid response in cases where someone is threatened with street homelessness.
- Develop, review and promote local housing and support pathways for groups that are more vulnerable to becoming homeless due to;
- Domestic abuse
- Mental health problems
- Leaving local authority care
- Age - 16-17 year olds
- Substance misuse
- Rough sleepers
- Former members of the regular armed services
- Investigate the need for and feasibility of a joint system for support providers and local authorities to gather and share information about rough sleepers and their personal housing and support plans.
- Develop pre eviction protocols/arrangements with registered housing providers and private sector landlords to prevent homelessness from rented accommodation.
Priority 2 Provide flexible and comprehensive responses to those in crisis and those with complex needs
What do we want?
- To design services based on what is best for people in crisis and for those whose needs go beyond homelessness – so that they receive the services they need (not limited by existing practice or legislation).
What does this mean?
What will we do?
- Pilot a Somewhere Safe To Stay hub – providing a year round emergency assessment/bed space for rough sleepers to access housing and support regardless of whether they are new or existing rough sleepers.
- Pilot Housing First - an approach to provide permanent housing quickly for homeless people with complex and multiple needs. Providing flexible and tailored support.
- Pilot Supported Lettings – intensive tenancy support for rough sleepers/those at risk of rough sleeping – allowing landlords to take more of a risk on tenants with complex needs.
- Provide a rapid response to rough sleeping and increase emergency bed spaces during the harshest months of the winter.
- Explore the need to develop services/improve integration of existing services to meet the needs of families and individuals with complex needs but who do not meet the social care threshold.
- Deliver on the outcomes from the Rough Sleeper Task and Finish Group - review the partnership approach and responses to preventing rough sleeping across the County.
Priority 3 Improve supply of/access to good quality, affordable and supported housing
What do we want?
What does this mean?
What will we do?
- Work closely with our Registered Housing Providers in ensuring the most effective use of existing social housing stock and through their plans to develop new housing.
- Develop a county wide supported housing plan based on housing need evidence.
- Improve our private rented housing offer for homeless/potentially homeless households by ensuring the accommodation is of good quality and easy to obtain. Also improve our offer to landlords to encourage them to provide accommodation for homeless households.
- Work with partners to develop additional housing options e.g. shared housing is an important stepping stone for many rough sleepers for whom having a safe place to sleep is all that they can manage initially.
- Develop “tenancy ready” training and support to improve access to and sustainment of tenancies. Including developing general principles around what tenancy ready training is and mapping what services are already being provided.
- If landlords can be assured that someone has the skills to manage a tenancy, including financial skills and the payment of rent, then the risk to is reduced and they may be inclined to offer them housing.
- Consider the feasibility of a “second chance” housing model - recognising the need to have open and honest conversations about past tenancy history in order to provide the right housing and support for that individual/family.
The Public Sector Equality Duty (Equality Act 2010) requires public bodies to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity, and foster good relations between different people when carrying out their activities. Our approach will adhere to this.
Statutory Homelessness – where the rehousing duty is owed
Homelessness Households not owed the rehousing duty
|Priority||High Level Action||Action||Responsibility||Timescale|
Develop Housing and Support pathways for specific vulnerable groups so that customers and partners are clear on what tools/services there are in place to prevent homelessness.
Upscale communication with customers, stakeholders and communities
|1. Develop a Housing Option Toolkit for Local Authority staff to include prevention plan, techniques and pathways||Worcestershire Strategic Housing Officers Group (WSHOG)||12 months|
|Prevention||2. Develop a charter that highlights stakeholder commitment to refer anyone who is homeless or threatened with Rough Sleeping (Duty to refer / Commitment to Refer)||WSHOG||12 months|
|Prevention||3. Develop a charter with PCNs in Wyre Forest around homelessness and health, with an initial focus on Rough Sleepers in Year One||Principal Health and Sustainability Officer / Principal Strategic Housing Officer||12 months|
|Prevention||4. Support Partnership Events (on an annual basis) to confirm roles and responsibilities around tackling and preventing homelessness and rough sleeping||WSHOG / Local Homeless Forum||12 months|
|Intervention||5. Provide up to date advice on support and guidance services available in the local community for those customers who are homeless and rough sleeping – to include website and written materials||Principal Strategic Housing Officer||6 months|
|Intervention||6. Improve communication through website, social media, promotional materials etc as per WFDC communication plan including scheduled posts promoted on Council social media to provide a consistent message||WF Media Team||12 months|
|Prevention||7. Review website to ensure compliance with HRA and other useful, up to date advice||Principal Strategic Housing Officer||6 months|
|Prevention||8. Implement an alternative giving scheme – Real Change||Principal Strategic Housing Officer||6 months|
|Prevention||Identify critical intervention opportunities to divert people away from homelessness||9. Continue to commission WF Nightstop and Mediation to provide Schools Education Programme (where funding available)||Head of Strategic Growth||3 months|
|Intervention||10. Work with commissioned social prescribers in GP surgeries to ensure support available to homeless / rough sleepers||Public Health /Principal Strategic Housing Officer||12 months|
|Prevention/Intervention||11. Support VCS with drop in sessions from statutory services (where required) to ensure consistent approach with regards to homelessness and rough sleeping||Local Homeless Forum / Principal Strategic Housing Officer||12 months|
Develop different and more integrated pathways to meet the needs of families and single people with complex needs.Identify any gaps in provision and risks.
|12. Develop an information sharing protocol for those involved with rough sleepers.||WSHOG||12 months|
|Prevention||13. To explore CHAIN to understand the software they use for intelligence gathering||Naomi Morris WDC||12 months|
|Intervention||14. Develop an “expert by experience” user group who can share feedback on experiences and inform learning / future commissioning. Utilise this group to ensure effective service delivery.||WSHOG / Project Officer & RS Support Worker||12 months|
|Intervention||Work with partners to build family stability and supportive social networks within communities||15. Role out pre-eviction protocol across social landlords||Naomi Morris WDC||12 months|
|Intervention||16. Explore funding opportunities for training with partners e.g. motivational interviewing / PIE||WSHOG||12 months|
|17. Explore opportunity to develop protocols / SLA with Registered Providers around homelessness / rough sleepers||Principal Strategic Housing Officer||12 months|
|Recovery||Deliver the Housing First model to provide permanent housing and support for entrenched rough sleepers||18. Deliver and evaluate Housing First pilot in partnership with RPs and St Paul's Hostel||Housing Advice Team Leader||2 years|
|Recovery||Develop services for those with complex needs – focus on mental health, substance misuse, domestic abuse, loneliness and isolation.||19. To investigate joint funding / commissioning opportunities with regards to Mental Health to specifically support Homeless and Rough Sleepers||Mental Health T&F|
|Recovery||20. To identify ways for Rough Sleepers to take part in meaningful activities such as EET, volunteering||Principal Strategic Housing Officer / CHG / Fusion||12 months|
|Recovery||21. Explore opportunities for developing a day centre or similar in WF where Rough Sleepers can access services, support and meaningful activity||Principal Strategic Housing Officer||2 years|