Neil Morland
January 26, 2021

National action needed to increase local prevention successes

A national homelessness strategy, sharing good practice and long-term funding will help local authorities prevent more homelessness.

A national homelessness strategy, sharing good practice and long-term funding will help local authorities prevent more homelessness. 

Funding was a primary concern for local authorities. More responses were received to questions about funding than any other. Funding for support services was repeatedly referenced by respondents. 

The majority of local authorities reported that they provide or fund homelessness prevention services extending beyond their statutory duties, for example, targeting people at early (pre-56 days) risk of homelessness or preventing repeat prevention. However, most local authorities could not provide details about how much funding was being spent by themselves or others on homelessness prevention activities. 

Notwithstanding this, local authorities were confident about forecasting future stability of homelessness prevention funding. Funding for emergency prevention activities was the only area which local authorities forecast there would be a reduction of spending in future. Funding for targeted prevention activities was considered to be more stable in the medium term than compared any other form of homelessness prevention activity, but less stable in the long-term. 

Local authorities were enthusiastic about preventing homelessness. Local authorities reported that homelessness prevention pathways are in place, but there appeared to be no uniformed model used throughout the country. There was little evidence from the responses to suggest that a five-tier typology used for the survey, has been universally adopted or fully understood by local authorities. 

A focus on increased targeted homelessness prevention activities was evident from the responses, whereas there was a more mixed picture with the other four types of homelessness prevention activities. Attention to pre-crisis homelessness prevention activity is unsurprising, given the new duties to prevent and relieve homelessness, arising from the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017. 

The survey revealed that there is no consistent or reliable system of measuring and monitoring the five different types of homelessness prevention activities, beyond what is collect via the H-CLIC.

The barriers identified by local authorities to carrying out homelessness prevention activities, are beyond their control, primarily due to these being the effect of national policy (especially housing and welfare matters) and funding decisions (short-term grant awards). Local authorities reported that a more strategic approach and a greater co-operation by all agencies, would help to increase homelessness prevention activity. Local authorities were clear that they could do more to prevent homelessness, and particularly believe that so too could the UK Government.

Homelessness strategies were barely mentioned by any respondents. It appears that local authorities don’t see a connection between strategic homelessness duty and national government decisions funding and prevention action. 

Local authorities can prevent more homelessness, if they had long-term (e.g. five year) funding guarantees. Such an arrangement would allow local authorities to develop a wider range of more targeted prevention activities, that could take place at an earlier stage. Monitoring the spending of this funding, against a range of measures that is currently collected by the H-CLIC, would help to demonstrate the public value of any funding allocated. Understanding and promoting successful models for preventing homelessness,  will help local authorities to concentrate their resources and activities. A new national homelessness strategy that deals with causes of homelessness, will help local authorities to deliver against their local priorities for preventing local homelessness.