Implementing the Homelessness Reduction Act
“The approach taken was very good, it was collaborative and constructive throughout – workshops were interesting, engaging and enjoyable. Also pleased that it involved staff from all levels, as I often worry that people on the ground don't have a voice when they are often best placed to contribute to discussions around service improvement.” Head of Housing Needs, London Borough
February 2018 - April 2020 | Service Transformation
The Homelessness Reduction Act (2017) represented one of the most fundamental changes to the English statutory homelessness framework since its conception in 1977. The changes were brought in relatively quickly with minimal lead time for local authorities. The final statutory code of guidance to help authorities interpret the changes was only published a few months before the law came into effect in April 2018.
Having led the campaign to introduce the HRA, we wanted to provide targeted support to a group of local authorities to help them implement the Act “in spirit and practice”. We formed a partnership with five local authorities across the country, and developed a flexible package of tailored support as they each got to grips with the new legislation. This partnership lasted for the first two years of implementation and has provided the foundation for our Consultancy Service.
The first few months of the project were focussed on getting to know each of the five authorities, their unique challenges and what we each wanted to get out of the partnership. Over time, we were able to gain an in-depth knowledge of how each statutory homelessness service worked and develop a support offer that could be tailored to each authority’s needs at different points in time.
The support offer included:
- Events, meetings & workshops e.g. 2-day co-design workshop with frontline officers in Durham, North East 'duty to refer' task & finish groups
- Training & Masterclasses e.g. developing a HRA motivational interviewing training package, local connection training in Oxfordshire
- Facilitating learning and collaboration with peers e.g. quarterly days with the five authorities utilising action learning sets, use of a digital collaboration space
- Service reviews and assessments e.g. service shadowing and observations, case file reviews, mystery shopping
- Developing tools, products and materials e.g. self-assessment tools, user involvement strategy in Lewisham, duty to refer procedure in Oxfordshire
- Service design projects e.g. using user-centred design approaches to redesign the 'front door' in Oxford and Middlesbrough and developing a prevention & relief toolkit for officers in Durham
- Critical friend support e.g. reviewing bids for the domestic abuse and PRS access funds, reviewing policies and strategies
- Introducing new ways of working & supporting culture change e.g. using reflective practice at quarterly days, introducing user-centred design and agile approaches
The hands-on experience of supporting HRA implementation has increased our credibility and influence in the sector and we are now helping more local authorities implement best practice responses. We developed a project website (now the Consultancy Service) to showcase and share the learning throughout the project, open-access and free for others to use. There are over 24 resources still openly available from this project and the site was visited by 417 unique users during its lifetime.
All the local authorities involved in the project are still part of our Local Authority Practice Network and actively working with us to improve and learn. They provided feedback at the end of the project which emphasised what they valued, including:
- The need and importance of culture change, particularly the focus on the need to develop strategies around psychologically informed environments and trauma informed care
- Reflective practice and peer support provided through our regular quarterly days
- Help developing a practical understanding of the new legislation
- Critical friend support when navigating this new territory
- Frontline officers being involved in development and discussions with the other local authorities, not just managers
- An external perspective on their service, particularly through our service review methodologies
- The emphasis placed on customer needs and the ‘user-centred’ approach we adopt in all our work
Further Reading/ Resources
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