West Midlands organisations urged to work together to prevent homelessness
The West Midlands Homelessness Taskforce and the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) are joining forces to step up the battle against homelessness – with a focus on prevention.
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street set up the Homelessness Taskforce in collaboration with local authorities in May 2017 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.
The single biggest cause of homelessness in the West Midlands is eviction from a private rented property following the end of a tenancy. Other key causes include domestic violence and relationship breakdown.
The taskforce is teaming up with CIH to seek ways to identify those at risk of homelessness and intervene earlier in the process and wants to work with partner organisations.
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 struggling under demand, with thousands of West Midlands households owed a homelessness duty. Just under half have support needs such as mental health problems, disability, ill health, domestic violence or alcohol or drug dependency.
Latest statistics show that 2,670 households across the West Midlands Combined Authority areas – 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 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.
If successful, the approach could be replicated nationwide.
CIH chief executive Terrie Alafat CBE is 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.
Terrie Alafat said: “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.
“This is an opportunity for all the key players in the West Midlands to get round 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.”
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 said: “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.”