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The Options and Prevention Tool Kit

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1 The Options and Prevention Tool Kit
Andy Gale

2 Prevention What Councils say
There has been a culture change; homelessness can be prevented by early intervention Staff “preventing” homelessness now outnumber those “processing” homelessness Each household’s circumstance is different – and calls for a different response Most Councils now have a Toolkit of Housing Options and Prevention measures which also reach beyond the statutory homeless and are available to help more people Virtually all Welsh and English Councils have set up options teams

3 Key Messages from English Councils
Get your allocations schemes right Take a critical look at your structure and first contact processes Home Visits backed with options Use HB Better Have responses for each of your main causes Have a Prevention Fund

4 Homeless Acceptances England
The number of new cases of homelessness has fallen since the beginning of I’ll mention later the reason for this. Latest statistics published 12 March show a continuing decrease in homelessness with 17,310 homelessness acceptances by local authorities between October and December 2006 – 18% lower than in the same period in 2005 and the lowest quarterly value since the early 1980s;

5 Administer Homelessness Differently…Stop Fire fighting
Understand causes of local homelessness Understand where the front line in prevention really is – it’s not the Town Hall Have the right people in the right place doing the right things at the right time To be able do the right things calls for a comprehensive Options and Prevention Toolkit

6 Fire-fighting Council Structure

7 A Prevention and Options Council Structure

8 Structure of Service Service is geared to early intervention and a personal options/prevention response with staff at all three levels having access to a Toolkit

9 Local Authority Survey of Homelessness Prevention 2007
71% of Local authorities have more staff preventing homelessness than in 2006 Less than 4% have more staff processing Total number of preventions was 49,227 for 2005/6 Projected increase to 71,903 in 2006/7 32% increase

10 Most successful prevention measure key findings from Councils
52% say rent deposit schemes 41% mediation 32% advice on housing options 30% dialogue with landlords 32% local authorities have more staff preventing homelessness (65% 2005) 30% home visits

11 Getting a new Structure Right Lessons Learnt
Inexperienced Options Officers Poor Filtering Lack of clarity of Roles Generic options/prevention/Assessment or individual roles Role of Admin support Links between Homeless team and allocations especially in stock transfer LAs Some areas need dedicated resources such as rent deposit schemes and temporary accommodation. Lack of processes and procedures

12 Get in Early Use the time line to prevent homelessness
Incident 1 Incident Notice Notice ends Court Bailiff I________________I____________ I____________________I_______________I_____________I ? weeks weeks weeks weeks weeks You can prevent homelessness here Too late now

13 How is homelessness being prevented by Councils
Cause of homelessness Action to prevent homelessness Parents, relatives or friends exclusions, relationship breakdown Mediation/counselling, home visits Violent relationship breakdown Sanctuary schemes End of assured shorthold tenancy Advice, landlord mediation/ negotiation, rent deposit/bond Mortgage or rent arrears Debt counselling, advocacy in court, resolving HB problems Person poorly-equipped to sustain tenancy Advice and support (Supporting People), life skills, budgeting Lack of information Early, proactive intervention, advice and good range of options They have looked at the main causes of Homelessness and devised bespoke prevention and options schemes to tackle these.

14 The Prevention and Options Toolkit
Who needs and should understand the Toolkit? Using the Basic Toolkit on your home visit? What is in your full Toolkit? (A response to all the local causes of homelessness)

15 The Prevention and Options Toolkit Who needs to know what?
Basic knowledge Your own Reception or Call Centre Staff (Switchboard?) Housing Register staff Estate Office (including RSL) Reception staff Housing Benefits Staff Local Lettings Agents and key landlords Relevant voluntary agencies Members Comprehensive knowledge Housing Advisers Prevention Officers Visiting Officers and Estate Managers (local Lettings Agents and Key Landlords?) Visiting Officers from Housing Benefits Assessment Officers CAB or other relevant Voluntary Agencies

16 The Full Toolkit Who needs to know?
The following will need comprehensive knowledge of the full Toolkit Housing Advisers Prevention Officers Visiting Officers; housing needs and estate managers for RSLs or Council Assessment Officers CAB or other relevant Voluntary Organisations (Shelter , BOND) supporting your prevention work

17 The Basic Toolkit for the Home Visit
Home Visits are Essential Family or Friend Exclusions End of Tenancy (Social and AST) where Tenant’s acts or omissions are cause of homelessness All cases where homelessness is not threatened within 28 days For other potential Exclusions where there are vulnerable members of the household Home Visits are Essential For any potential Exclusions where it is uncertain if applicant can sustain a tenancy Landlord/Agent Visits Also desirable where it is believed Landlord is selling, converting or moving in NB Prior risk assessment needed for all home visits even to landlords

18 The Case for Home Visits
A replacement kitchen sink with earth bonding, tiling costs less than £400 No landlord would remove and replace a kitchen sink on the basis of a letter, a phone call or an interview Do potentially homeless households deserve a lesser response?

19 Home Visits key issues PURPOSE Verification of client’s household and circumstances Understanding applicant and excluder needs and expectations Explanation of relevant housing options and outcomes Negotiation/Agreement on personal re-housing plan or tenancy sustainment Agreement on who does what and by when Giving clients confidence QUESTIONS FOR VISITOR “Is there risk or benefit in trying to sustain present arrangements?” “Can the applicant manage their own tenancy?” “What can I do to prevent homelessness re-occurring?” “Is there any value in professional mediation?” “What have I got in my Toolkit to help this situation?” (prevention fund?)

20 Essential Toolkit for home visits “The Knowledge”
of Allocations Scheme and waiting times for lettings of all the local Housing Options Available, Deposits, Direct Lettings of likely waiting times for Options of TA options and length of stay in TA of Housing Benefit rules

21 Essential Toolkit for home visits “Authority”
to spend Homeless Prevention Fund and DHP to approve access to Mediation Services to offer Rent Deposit Schemes to offer Direct Landlord Lettings to provide Tenancy Rescue or Support Services to offer respite housing arrangements

22 Essential Toolkit for home visits Skills (probably the most important)
To Listen to the excluder and our client To Understand their needs and expectations To verify and assess housing need To prevent homelessness and offer a personal re-housing plan

23 The Full Toolkit should support Options and Prevention work in the home or in the office
Responses needed for threat of homelessness caused by Debt Problems in the home (people not getting on) Violence Discharge from institutions

24 Full Toolkit – tackling loss of ASTs. Get to the bottom of the problem
I want to put the rent up I want him out I don’t want to manage the property any more I am fed up with his rent being late My lender has told me to stop letting Landlord: ‘Well actually, I don’t really want to sell…

25 The Full Toolkit; Housing Benefits and their contribution
Strong partnership working with Benefits Do HB notify the Prevention Team of cases where benefits may be stopped or suspended? How do they deal with Regulation 7 Access to DHP Most boroughs don’t spend their allocation Facility to backdate Arrangements for interruption to tenancy caused by custodial sentence, hospital admission, domestic violence Do HB train Options Staff on the key HB rules as they impact on homelessness? Is there access to a fast track HB officer? Is HB’s performance helping or hindering prevention Is there a corporate commitment from HB to help prevent homelessness

26 The Full Tool Kit Exclusions linked to violence
What responses have you for Domestic Violence? Sanctuary Scheme, Respite housing, Rehousing. Refuges On-Line Are women given the choice of staying in their home or returning to their home? Who are your partners? Landlords, Police, Fire Service, Womens Aid, A&E, LSC franchises Do all social landlords operate a common response? What Responses do you have for Hate Crime or Neighbour Harassment? Sanctuary Scheme, Respite housing, Rehousing. Are victims given the choice of staying in their home or returning to their home? Who are your partners? Landlords, Police, Fire Service, Community Groups LSC franchises? Do all social landlords operate a common response?

27 The Full Tool Kit Reponses to Youth Homelessness
Do you know your levels of year old acceptances? 9% of all acceptances nationally (ranging from .2% to 30%) Have you identified schools that “generate” presentations? Estimated that 90% of these young people were previously excluded from school? (Source NCH) Assessment Arrangements? Do they work? In house? “Protocols”, Contracted out to specialists? Who are your partners in early intervention? Connexions, Local Youth Agencies (YMCA, Llamau, Centre-point) What options do you have for 16/17s What do you have - Respite Accommodation, Supported lodgings, NOAH schemes, Foyer Are options linked to training? Do schools and Connexions support your options? If you use the worst option of all, B&B –what support is given? Mediation?

28 The Full Toolkit and Young People Mediation or Home Visits?
Unless there is clear history of violence, home visits are crucial to assess need and scope for mediation Specialist Youth Agencies generally interact better with young people. Do yours visit? Many Agencies can mediate and have respite or move-on housing options themselves; Llamau, YMCA, Barnardos, Foyer

29 Tool kit for “institutional homelessness”
Prison Discharges; what arrangements are in place with Solicitors, NOMS and Prisons? Hospital Discharges; what arrangements are in place with your local PCT? Care Leavers; what arrangements are in place with Social Services? When reviewing your Homeless Strategy ensure these agencies are part of your tool kit We’ll just drop you at the HPU, mate I mean, they wouldn’t just put me on the street, my Probation Officer knows I need a place

30 Tool kit for Debt Early intervention in all Tenures
What response do you (or Benefits) offer for for Council, RSL and Private Landlords orAgents? Is money advice given at Tenancy start up in all tenures? At what point does the Options Prevention Service get to hear of potential exclusions from all sectors? Have you a Prevention Fund to help head off problems? Do CAB or other voluntary agencies know about your HPF and DHP? Do the Courts, Lenders, Agents and Landlords know about your Options and Prevention approach? Don’t worry about this month’s rent, Chantelle. I’m sure the Council will help

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