Issue - decisions
Impact of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017
The Head of Housing Services had submitted a report to set out the changes and new duties in the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, and to note their possible impact. The report also set out areas for service change in response to this and sought approval for the new Homelessness Prevention Trailblazer programme.
Councillor Mike Rowley, Board Member for Housing, introduced the report observing that the changes would not make a significant difference to the Council’s core activity in this area. The supporting administrative and other processes would, however, have to be re-engineered to some degree. A budget to secure these changes was in place for the current year, if more was needed beyond that there would be a further report to the Board.
In discussion the following points emerged. An increase in the number of those presenting as homeless was almost inevitable as would the number of appeals against decisions; temporary accommodation arrangements were likely to become longer; there would be a (continuing) strong focus on prevention; the response (assessment and plan) to those presenting as homeless would have to be mutually agreed; and there would be a particular focus on the needs of those who were at a higher than average risk of becoming homeless (eg. care leavers; prison leavers; armed forces personnel; domestic abuse victims; hospital leavers and those suffering with mental health issues) and officers were working with relevant organisations accordingly.
Cllr Hayes drew Members’ attention to the parliamentary Homelessness Reduction Act inquiry which was critical of the new arrangements. He argued that to make a material difference to the challenges faced by homeless people there should be a focus on affordable homes; reversal of recent welfare changes; and proper support/funding for organisations supporting those with mental health/ substance abuse .
Councillor Rowley was pleased to note that the City had intervened successfully (and so prevented homelessness) in over 1,000 cases in 2015/16. This was a better record than the City’s geographical neighbours and gave cause to be ‘firm’ with those neighbours in the ‘relief’ phase of the new arrangements.
The City Executive Board resolved to:
1. Note the changes and new duties imposed on the Council by the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 and the potential impacts on service delivery and resourcing;
2. Endorse the proposed service changes highlighted in this report, and welcome the further strengthening of homelessness prevention measures;
3. Note the additional ‘new burdens’ funding and that the 18/19 budget reports will include recommendations with respect to homelessness prevention funding from 18/19 onwards; and
4. Note the proposed arrangements for Oxfordshire Trailblazer Programme, led by Oxford City Council.