Groundswell’s Insight and Action team on ‘three months in on the act’

Local Authorities face new opportunities and challenges to support people who are affected by homelessness.

First published July 2018 by Groundswell’s Insight and Action team.

The Homelessness Reduction Act (‘the Act’) which came into force in April this year, places new legal duties on English Local Authorities to give everyone who is homeless or at risk of homelessness access to meaningful help. While ‘Priority Need’, ‘Local Connection’ and being judged ‘intentionally homeless’ have not been abolished all together, they are only applied in order to help assess people’s entitlement to certain parts of the new provision.

The new framework began as a Private Member’s Bill introduced to Parliament in June 2017 by Bob Blackman, backbench Conservative MP for Harrow East, following the In On the Act campaign led by Crisis. The Act places new duties on local authorities, encouraging housing teams to act quickly and proactively, and should allow housing authorities more time to do prevention work.

Until the Act came in, most prevention and relief work undertaken by LA housing teams sat outside of a legal framework. This has led to many single homeless people receiving only limited support. Under the Act, all eligible people who are found to be homeless or threatened with homelessness will be entitled to more tailored support from the housing teams, regardless of priority need and intentionality. Support to prevent homelessness is available to everyone regardless of local connection.

At Groundswell we’ve been commissioned by Crisis, the national charity for homeless people, to conduct fieldwork on a research project looking at how the roll out of the Act is going. The research will take place over 3 years involving conducting 600 interviews a year with people who have visited local authority housing teams since April, across 6 areas of England. We hope that this will create a picture of how the new law is impacting on people who are facing homelessness.

One of the key challenges faced by local authorities will be the lack of resources needed to effect the changes in services that the bill demands. The Government has committed £72.7 million over three years to help local authorities meet the ‘new burdens’ placed on them by the Act. However, wider structural issues like the shortage of available accommodation will provide a significant issue, particularly in and around London and many other urban areas.

It’s too early to tell the effect that the Act will have on homeless people but the local authorities we have been in contact with so far seem to be embracing the changes. We’ll keep you posted on the research as we begin to understand how it is impacting people affected by homelessness.

A Groundswell team member