TAMWORTH Borough Council has received Government praise for an ‘exceptional approach’ and ‘exemplary practices’ in its work to prevent homelessness.
The feedback was given by the Homelessness Advice and Support Team from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, which recently visited the council to see how it has implemented the new Homelessness Reduction Act which was introduced last year.
The Government team praised the council’s exceptional approach to homelessness prevention, citing excellent training and support for staff, exceptional leadership and positive partnerships with the community. The positive practice witnessed at Tamworth will now be shared with other local authorities.
“Tamworth demonstrated an exceptional approach to homelessness prevention with the join up between estate management services and housing options and the case studies given were inspiring. The leadership is exceptional.”
There has been a much greater focus on preventing homelessness in Tamworth in the last 12 months, particularly in terms of identifying the resources and partnerships needed towards that goal. As a result, 70 per cent of homelessness cases are now prevented through improved interventions. This is despite an increase in the number of people presenting as homeless.
In the remaining cases where homelessness is unfortunately unavoidable, improved systems are in place to help people into suitable temporary accommodation.
Victoria Kell, from the MHCLG Homelessness Advice and Support Team, said: “We thought Tamworth demonstrated some exemplary practices, especially around the focus and support given to prevention and responding positively and innovatively to each individual in housing need.
“Tamworth demonstrated an exceptional approach to homelessness prevention with the join up between estate management services and housing options and the case studies given were inspiring. The leadership is exceptional.
“It was clear that the Housing Service takes advantage of the positive partnerships in the locality and uses those partnerships to both identify and respond quickly to prevent homelessness.
“We took a lot of positive practice away from our visit to Tamworth and will be sharing that with other authorities who may be struggling with certain aspects of the new Act.”
Particular mention was made of tailored training and support given to frontline staff to help prevent homelessness. This includes mediation training, which has enabled the housing team to help keep people in their homes by providing a mediation service between family members or private landlords. Other interventions include helping people apply for mortgage relief, setting up alternative payment arrangements, budgeting support and working with partners such as hospitals, to predict and manage need.
Where homelessness is unavoidable, the council now has improved systems in place for getting people in to suitable temporary accommodation. This includes working with private sector landlords, the use of a small number of vacant council properties as temporary accommodation (depending on availability at any given time) and referring to partner agencies for specialist supported accommodation.
The council also has the support of the area’s fantastic voluntary sector, such as the Starfish Night Shelter project, and was able to secure a £5,000 grant from the Government to help pay for the shelter this winter.
Cllr Michelle Cook, Cabinet member for Housing Services and Neighbourhoods, said: “As a council, we’ve done a lot of work around how we can best meet the housing needs of the residents of Tamworth, including providing more affordable homes, making better use of temporary accommodation and a greater focus on how we can prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place.
“As a result of all this work, we are managing to prevent people from actually becoming homeless in around 70 per cent of cases and finding better solutions for those who do need homelessness relief. For example, we have seen a huge drop in the number of people in Bed & Breakfast accommodation, to the extent that we now have periods of time where no-one is in a B&B – something which was unheard of a year ago.
“We are delighted with the feedback from the MHCLG and will be continuing to build on the great work done so far. Congratulations must go to the housing team who work hard to help find solutions for people every day.”