The draft Homelessness Reduction Bill Contents

Conclusions and recommendations


1.Our scrutiny of the text has reinforced our support for the principle of the Bill. We welcome the discussion it has started of the legislation governing responses to homelessness. However there are some points in the draft Bill that need further work and, where appropriate, we make recommendations to help the Bill better achieve its aims. We believe that this report and the evidence we have taken will both improve the Bill and help the House debate its provisions. (Paragraph 3)

The draft Homelessness Reduction Bill

2.We welcome the extension of the period that someone can be considered to be threatened with homelessness from 28 to 56 days. We believe that the longer period will enable more effective work to prevent instances of homelessness from occurring. (Paragraph 12)

3.We recommend that Clause 1(2) of the Bill is revised so that it is clear that an applicant for support need not remain in a property where possession proceedings are underway for the local authority to treat such a person as homeless. (Paragraph 13)

4.We welcome the provisions of Clause 2 and the emphasis it places on services preventing homelessness from occurring. (Paragraph 14)

5.We recommend that those who have experienced, or are at continued risk of, domestic violence and abuse should be included in Clause 2(4), to reflect their complex needs and increased vulnerability. (Paragraph 16)

6.A mandatory code of practice for local authorities, alongside a clear explanation to applicants of the service levels they should expect to receive, need not be overly prescriptive, and could improve what is now an often hostile process. Such a code of practice however will only achieve its aims if it is monitored so that non-compliance has consequences and action can be taken to deliver improvement. Monitoring of compliance with the code is an issue for the Department to address in implementing the Bill. (Paragraph 20)

7.The provisions of the Bill will undoubtedly make a significant call on the resources of local authorities: however we believe that it is not acceptable to refuse support to vulnerable people on cost grounds alone. The Department for Communities and Local Government should ensure that the costs of new burdens on local authorities are fully taken into account in future funding and in arrangements for the 100% retention of business rates by local authorities. (Paragraph 26)

8.We recommend that Clause 3 (and a similar provision in the proposed Section 184C) be revised so that the definition of non-cooperation is clear and takes into account the likely behaviour of homeless people with complex needs. (Paragraph 32)

9.We acknowledge and welcome the intention of the 12 month requirement and the increased stability that it would provide. However we are not convinced that it will be workable. We therefore recommend that section 184C(5) and 184C(7) be amended to require councils to help secure accommodation for a period to be set out in secondary legislation. We would expect this initially to be six months, but believe that it is important to have the flexibility to extend the period if the market changes. (Paragraph 37)

10.In our view, the provision in Clause 8, as currently worded, is too broad and might be seen as running counter to the wider objectives of the Bill by significantly weakening the protections that already exist for priority need households. In our report on homelessness we called for services to provide a compassionate approach that gives individuals an element of choice and autonomy. Despite measures elsewhere in the draft Bill that foster a partnership approach, Clause 8 reverts to the adversarial ‘take it or leave it’ approach. If the Clause is to stay in the Bill, we believe that it should be redrafted to ensure that the protections for vulnerable people in priority need are not weakened. (Paragraph 40)

11.We support the principle behind the requirement that local authorities provide 56 days of emergency accommodation to those with nowhere safe to stay. However we also recognise the reality that it is not feasible for councils to provide accommodation to all homeless people. We therefore recommend that Clause 9 be revised to restrict the duty to those whose safety is at risk and call on the Secretary of State to issue guidance with objective measures to ascertain when someone is at risk of violence as compared to other forms of homelessness. (Paragraph 46)

12.We do not support the changes proposed in Clause 12 of the draft Bill. We do not believe that there is a consensus for changes to the local connection rules. We therefore recommend that the Clause be removed from the Bill. (Paragraph 52)

13.In light of the examples of poor service we found during our homelessness inquiry, we agree that applicants should have the right to ask for a review of the support they receive from local authorities. However we recognise the potential for a significant increase in cases brought to review and the impact that this will have on local authority resources. We therefore recommend that sub-paragraph (1B)(d) “any decision which is adverse to the applicant’s interests” be left out of Clause 12(5) of the draft Bill. Reviews should address whether the local authority has met its duties and fulfilled the actions it committed to in an applicant’s personal housing plan. (Paragraph 57)

14.We recommend that when assessing a property’s suitability, local authorities should be required both to take into account an applicant’s location preference and to balance this with long-term affordability for the applicant. Consideration should be given to providing a stronger duty to accommodate certain groups within a reasonable distance of their last permanent accommodation, such as people with mental health conditions who have a support network which is helpful in managing their condition, and families with children at school. (Paragraph 62)

15.It is unclear whether an organisation could deny a request for co-operation on the grounds that it would divert funds away from its primary duties or residents. We recommend that this Clause be reinforced by statutory guidance that makes it clear that such grounds would not be a valid reason for failing to co-operate with measures to reduce homelessness. (Paragraph 65)

The Bill’s impact on homelessness and implications of the Bill

16.We have concluded that the scale of homelessness in this country is such that a renewed, cross-Departmental Government strategy is needed. … All Departments need to contribute to the ending of homelessness by subscribing to a common approach. (Paragraph 67)

17.The evidence we have heard is clear that successful implementation will depend on close co-operation with local authorities. We recommend that the Department makes a commitment to working with local authorities to develop the Code of Practice. (Paragraph 70)

18.We urge the Department to complete its costing of the Bill before Second Reading and then to work with local authorities to develop a funding model that reflects local demand. (Paragraph 73)

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13 October 2016