How partnerships can help housing associations to tackle homelessness

Hazel O'Halloran, 16 December 2021

As the Homelessness Lead for Bromford my role is deliver on our strategic goal ‘We want to improve social justice and play our part in reducing homelessness in our big four areas’. The ‘big four’ are the areas where we have the most homes and hold strong relationships with our local authorities and partners. This provides us with opportunities to collaborate and work towards ensuring any experience of homelessness is rare, brief and non-recurring. And ultimately improve the customer journey through and out of homelessness.

There is no doubt that this is hugely ambitious, but it is so important that as a housing association we are accountable for our part to play in reducing and preventing homelessness where possible. We also need to acknowledge, that we make some people homeless ourselves and we don’t accept every customer that applies to live in one of our homes.

This is why one of our key priorities is improving our practice when a customer living in one of our homes becomes at risk of homelessness.

Ordinarily if someone is at risk of homelessness and they come to the attention of a professional in a public authority, the Duty to Refer legislation is applied to alert the local authority.

However, housing associations are not duty bound to follow this process. But surely, we are best placed to work with our local authorities to ensure customers at risk of homelessness are provided with advice, options, opportunities to change their situation, and the offer of support to prevent them for losing their home?

Sadly, this isn’t always the case. So at Bromford we wanted to step up our approach and kickstart how we address this. We contacted Cotswold District Council, Tewkesbury Borough Council, and support provider P3 to join us in a workshop to formulate how we enhance our partnership working to better support our customers who are at risk of losing their home.

The NHF Commitment to Refer guidance provided us with a great starting point for conversations.

Teams from across Bromford were included so that we considered a range of views and to acknowledge that our customers are all unique, each case is different and what works for one customer may not work for another. But it’s also about our colleagues working together with the local authority and partners to offer the support the customer may need to stay in their home.

There were healthy debates and the workshop enabled us all to better understand each other’s processes as well as build up trusting working relationships. From this the beginnings of our Commitment to Refer & Support guidance was initiated, and we are collectively progressing this to enable us to put our new approach into practice early 2022.

With the support from the NHF we are continuing to work through areas of our guidance and look forward to sharing the outcomes soon! Watch this space.