By Amy Orton, Local Democracy Reporter
More needs to be done by the Government to help prevent homelessness in Nottingham – according to the city councillor trying to tackle the problem.
Nottingham City Council has been given more powers to prevent people becoming homeless thanks to a new law that came into force in April, but Councillor Jane Urquhart, portfolio holder for planning and housing, says it has not been backed up with funding.
The Homelessness Reduction Act places new duties on councils to act before people find themselves homeless.
Changes include doubling the amount of time councils can support people threatened with homelessness from 28 days to 56 days, the introduction of assessment and personalised action plans, and wider responsibilities for early intervention to ensure other statutory bodies can easily refer into councils’ housing options services.
Councillors were given an update about the introduction when the overview and scrutiny committee met today (May 16).
Cllr Urquhart said: “The city council has already been doing a lot of work to prevent people becoming homeless in the first place, and the Homelessness Reduction Act will strengthen our abilities to continue with this.
“While the extra powers in the act are welcome, it comes with insufficient funding from government, which at the outset of its programme of austerity, cut £20m of funding from our budget which provided precisely the sort of support needed to prevent and tackle homelessness.”
But the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said that Nottingham City Council has £515m available to spend this year and next under the recent Local Government Finance settlement, and it is up to them to use the money to meet local needs.
It added Nottingham will receive a further £434,879 as part of the funding allocated under the Homelessness Reduction Act.
A Government spokesperson said: “Everyone deserves a safe and decent place to live, and we are providing more than £1.2 billion to ensure homeless people get the support they need.
“Our new Homelessness Reduction Act will ensure more people are provided with the support they need sooner. To help councils like Nottingham introduce the new law, we are providing them with an extra £72 million.”
The act, which has been rolled out across the country, is aimed at giving councils more time to help people who are at risk of becoming homeless.
The period that people who are deemed to be at risk of becoming homeless has been extended to 56 days. The extension aims to encourage housing authorities to act quickly and should allow housing authorities more time to carry out prevention work.
Assessments will be on offer to all homeless people and those threatened with homelessness.
The circumstances that caused the applicant to become homeless or threatened with homelessness, what housing the applicant needs, and what accommodation would be suitable, and whether the applicant needs support to obtain and keep accommodation will be discussed before an action plan is drawn up.
The personalised plans will outline reasonable steps the individual and the council must take to address and reduce the risk of homelessness.
Emphasis will also be placed on organisations working together to ensure service users get tailored help.
A city council spokesman said: “In Nottingham we have established a homelessness prevention strategic implementation group, made up of statutory agencies and community, voluntary and faith sector organisations, which takes joint responsibility for agreeing and implementing the local strategy for preventing homelessness.
“We have a number of services that work to stop single people and families from becoming homeless and despite budget pressures, we have committed to maintaining our level of investment in them for the next nine years.
“Support includes advice about benefits, welfare rights, legal issues and debt management, as well as lining up alternative accommodation and temporary accommodation where necessary.”