Out of Leeds comes an interesting story (picked up via Shelter’s Roof blog) about an agreement between the Local Authority, two Citizens Advice Bureaux and Shelter’s West Yorkshire Advice Service.
Leeds City Council has signed an agreement with the CABs and WYAS which sets out the ways in which they will collaborate on providing advice and help to those facing homelessness.
Under the terms of the agreement the agencies will work more closely together to provide early advice, assistance and support both to people at risk of homelessness and those who have already lost their homes, as well as preventing recurring homelessness by helping people secure sustainable accommodation.
The agreement is apparently the first to use a model that has been developed by the National Homelessness Advice Service, a partnership between Citizens Advice Service and Shelter, with support from Communities and Local Government, with the aim of helping local authorities and independent advice agencies to work together to prevent homelessness. It sets minimum standards for co-operative working and outlines good practice.
Hmm. We would be very interested to hear from anyone involved in this arrangment, or in deploying the NHAS model, as to how it actually works. While cooperation to reduce homelessness is clearly of value, I must admit to some concerns over the effect on the independence of the CABs and Shelter advisors in bringing challenges to Local Authority ‘advice’ or decisions on homelessness applications.
And then, given that the ‘preventing homelessness’ agenda in local authorities has seen the numbers of accepted full housing duty drop by 13% in the last year and 60% since 2003/4, I’m perhaps unduly suspicious of ‘prevention’ per se. (After all, no-one in the sector can seriously believe that the number of people presenting to LAs as homeless has dropped 60% since 2003/4. Gatekeeping of one form or another is rife). I would therefore be very interested to know what forms of support and assistance are involved in this venture. Leeds has divested its housing stock into three ALMOs, but still sets the allocation policy and runs the HPU (or ‘Homelessness advice unit’).