Tackling homelessness and meeting housing need
Ahead of our Tackling homelessness and meeting housing need conference next week, CIH policy and practice officer Faye Greaves reflects on the progress the sector has made 2018 and the challenges ahead.
Government is in listening mode and as a result we’ve seen several welcome developments throughout the year. The decision not to press ahead with planned changes to funding for short-term supported housing was a huge relief - the fact that it took so long wasn’t helpful but in the end the decision was the right one.
We’ve also seen the implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act. These new laws represent a progressive step - rightly placing prevention within the statutory framework. It will mean many more people will receive more timely help, advice and information than before.
And the rough sleeping strategy has been published too. Backed by £100 million of investment over the next two years it has real potential to help government achieve its plans to halve rough sleeping by 2022 and end it by 2027.
Action couldn’t come soon enough. It’s scandalous that 78 people died on the streets and in temporary accommodation in the UK last winter. These are the people we know about – the true figure is likely to be higher. But being without somewhere safe to stay is dangerous all year round - at least 440 people died on the streets in the last year.
Good progress is being made to gain insight into the way policies influence housing practice. A couple of notable research reports spring to mind here. The first is a piece of work by Heriot-Watt University’s (I-SPHERE) Dr Beth Watts, which reveals how housing associations and local authorities in England are using fixed term tenancies. The second is the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence’s (CaCHE) scoping study that explored the impact of welfare reforms on housing associations.
We’ve also seen the launch of the Centre for Homelessness Impact (CHI). Its aim to end homelessness by focusing on what works is backed by a compelling argument. The CHI has rightly highlighted how little progress we’ve made in tackling homelessness, especially if we think about how much more progress has been made in other areas, like health for example - where the application of scientific method drives innovation to make people healthier and for as long as possible. It would be fantastic to replicate this approach so that any experience of homelessness is only ever rare, brief, and non-recurrent.
Despite the challenges posed by the policy environment, I think there is increasingly welcome recognition that local/regional systems can have a huge impact on how we approach the sizeable task of meeting the nation’s housing needs and tackling homelessness. I co-delivered a webinar on this topic with Emma Lindley (CIH East Midlands board chair and housing strategy lead at Ashfield District Council), and it was clear that practitioners and leaders are open to the idea that systems change is possible, despite the external policy challenges.
Having access to genuinely affordable rented homes is a crucial part of the ‘system’ - this was clearly highlighted via our Rethinking social housing work. That’s why we’re expanding our Rethinking inquiries to look at how social rented homes are allocated in England. Rethinking allocations is shining a spotlight on what modern-day allocation models look like, what factors are influencing different approaches and what this means for who ends up in what little social rented housing we have left.
And for those who end up in housing organisations’ homes or working for them, our Make a Stand campaign - developed in partnership with Women’s Aid and the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance (DAHA) - has given landlords and employers the perfect platform to demonstrate their commitment to tackling domestic abuse and supporting people who have experienced it.
And finally, thanks to Crisis UK, we have a comprehensive plan to end homelessness. The plan is painstakingly crafted and quite frankly on the money in how it sets out a range of measures that, if taken together, can bring an end to the scourge of homelessness once and for all. It’s a shame the plan wasn’t led by central government. They are a significant partner in all of this.
These are all really important areas to consider as we march, Crisis-style, towards ending homelessness together. That’s why we’ve put together an amazing programme to explore these issues in more detail at our Tackling homelessness and meeting housing need conference, taking place in Northampton next week (5-6 December).