Organisations urged to team up to prevent homelessness

Mayor Andy Street set up the Homelessness Taskforce in collaboration with local authorities in May.

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The West Midlands Homelessness Taskforce and the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) are joining forces to step up to battle against homelessness – with a focus on prevention.

Set up in May 2017 by Mayor Andy Street, the Taskforce aims to ‘design out’ homelessness in all its forms.

Now, the taskforce is working with CIH to invite public service organisations across the region to get involved in its work to address the systemic and structural issues which can cause homelessness.

According to reports, the single biggest cause of homelessness in the West Midlands is eviction from a private rented property following the end of a tenancy, with other key causes including that of domestic violence and relationship breakdown.

The Homelessness Reduction Act, which came into force last year, means that many organisations – including Jobcentres and adult and children’s social services teams – have a new ‘duty to refer’ people who may be homeless or threatened with homelessness within 56 days to a local authority of the individual’s choice.

But the systems are said to be struggling under demand, with 58,660 West Midlands households owed a homelessness duty.

Latest statistics show that 2,670 West Midlands households – including about 5,000 children – are in temporary accommodation such as B&Bs and hostels; twice the national average rate (outside of London).

The taskforce and CIH have said that they believe there is an opportunity to embed homelessness prevention and early intervention measures into a range of services and systems across the region.

The new ‘duty to refer’ only requires a service to make a referral, while the new project aims to develop a ‘commitment to collaborate’ which demands a higher standard.

It’s hoped that greater engagement between organisations will ensure a joined-up approach to preventing people from becoming homeless and, if successful, the approach could be replicated nationwide.

CIH CEO, Terrie Alafat CBE, is said to be writing to chief executives of organisations across the West Midlands to invite them to take part in a series of roundtables to develop a shared commitment to collaborate, and to identify any barriers and challenges.

“Together we can design out homelessness but it does require a co-ordinated approach – that means all of us pulling out all the stops. In a country as rich as ours everyone should have access to a decent and affordable home”, she said.

“This is an opportunity for all the key players in the West Midlands to get around the table to come up with solutions together.

“The aim is to take the duty to refer to a whole new level by getting as many organisations as possible involved in designing homelessness out of our systems and the ways that public services are delivered. Collaboration will be absolutely vital to the success of this work”, Alafat added.

On the announcement, Andy Street said: “There is a tremendous will in the West Midlands to work together to prevent homelessness happening in the first place.

“We are delighted that CIH are keen to be at the forefront of this work by leading on our regional ambition to move beyond the duty to refer and develop a voluntary commitment to collaborate to prevent and relieve homelessness across sectors.”

Councillor Sharon Thompson, cabinet member for housing at Birmingham City Council and chair of West Midlands Homelessness Taskforce members’ advisory group added: “I am thrilled that CIH is working with us to take our prevention approach into its next phase.

“A commitment to collaborate will build on the conversations that are already being had and start to put in place the necessary measures that will ensure, in the West Midlands, no-one will suffer the indignity of becoming homeless.

“In Birmingham, we launched a city-led prevention strategy, where clear commitments were made by over 30 organisations across the public, private and third sectors, many of who operate on a regional level.

“This provides the perfect platform for continuing our work, now with CIH, to ensure that a commitment to collaborate will be successful and make impactful change.”

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