The HRA: Six months on
When the Homelessness Reduction Act (HRA) came into force on 3rdApril this year, there were predictions from all sides about the changes this would effect in real terms. The HRA was the biggest single change to Homeless Legislation and procedure since the 1977 Housing (Homeless Persons) Act and introduced brand new duties on Councils to Prevent and Relieve homelessness.
So, what does it mean?
The focus on empowering customers to help in resolving their own homelessness means that in-depth housing advice now must increase substantially. Housing Officers need to offer detailed, motivational interviews to all households who are homeless or are threatened with homelessness within the next 56 days irrespective of priority need.
In addition to this, there is a significant shift of focus to reflect earlier interventions and on preventing homelessness entirely; at the Prevention stage, clients will receive written ‘personal housing action plans’. If the Prevention stage is not successful, then clients will move into the Relief stage. The process includes ongoing assessments of a client’s needs and all findings are to be communicated by a formal letter to the customer at the Prevention stage, the Relief stage and any main duty.
Understandably, when initially proposed there was some concern that whilst the HRA would reduce homelessness, it would also add a much greater burden of work to local authority practitioners.
So, what has happened?
In the six months since the HRA came into force, the Government has pledged £72.7m over three years to help councils implement the new support across England. A Homelessness Commission, set up by the Local Government Information Unit is aiming to bring practical solutions to councils for getting the best out of the Act, as well as how they can work together to take action to prevent homelessness. A joined-up approach is one of the key elements of the Act, encouraged by the Duty to Refer, which came into force across England.
Across local authorities in England, there have been a range of responses to the Act. Some authorities have undergone restructuring their services and many have gone through recruitment drives in order to deal with the increased workload and ensure compliance with the Act. Despite the Duty to Refer only coming into law this week, many local authorities have pre-empted this and have already begun strengthening their ties with partner agencies and working on ways of improving and simplifying their referral processes.
It’s anticipated and hoped that with this more ‘joined up’ approach, there can be earlier interventions to address homelessness, preventing more people from losing their homes and reducing both the human and financial costs of homelessness.
We’re proud to have been able to offer local authorities and partner agencies solutions to some of the issues they were facing with the HRA, first with our PRAH module and secondly with ALERT, our free Duty to Refer tool.
We were told by Corby Borough Council that through PRAH’s customer portal, they were able to ‘reduce the amount of time taken within an assessment by half an hour’. Making differences like this, that matter in real terms to housing officers, is so important to us and is what we aim to continue as we move forward with the Homelessness Reduction Act.
To find out more, visit us at www.housingjigsaw.uk or talk to one of our team on firstname.lastname@example.org