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Driving down homelessness and rough sleeping in Ashford

Contributed by editor on Dec 02, 2019 - 06:05 AM

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Real progress is being made in tackling homelessness and rough sleeping in Ashford, with a new focus on prevention helping to drive down the number of people becoming homeless across the borough.



 

An action plan introduced by Ashford Borough Council has led to the numbers of households accepted as homeless falling by more than half – from 160 cases in 2017/18 to just 71 cases in 2018/19.

This improvement has been driven by a strategy which has seen the number of preventions nearly double during this same period – from 148 to 293.

As a result of this and a range of innovative measures to find alternative solutions, Ashford has been one of the few local authorities in Kent where the numbers of households placed in expensive temporary accommodation, like B&Bs, has fallen.

When the Homelessness Reduction Act came into force in April 2018, there were 179 people in temporary accommodation in Ashford, compared to just 114 today. That’s a fall of 34%.

An update on homelessness was presented to the council’s Cabinet on Thursday (28 November), when councillors voted to endorse the action plan that is continuing to deliver positive results for people facing homelessness in Ashford.

Cabinet were told that the Act represented the biggest change in homelessness legislation for 40 years. Councils in England had a new legal duty to proactively prevent or relieve homelessness for individuals and families threatened with the loss of their accommodation.

It was anticipated that the new law would lead to a surge in homelessness approaches to councils (caused in part by earlier interventions and by a new ‘duty to refer’ placed on public bodies and agencies) and this proved to be the case – Ashford has seen an 11% increase in homelessness approaches in 2018/19 compared to the year before.

“There is a huge amount of dedicated and co-ordinated work going on to reduce homelessness and rough sleeping in Ashford,” said Sharon Williams, head of housing at Ashford Borough Council, whose own background is in homelessness prevention.

The report to Cabinet shows that there has been a significant rise in rough sleeping in Kent in recent years and Ashford has not been immune. This is against a Government target that rough sleeping be eliminated nationally by 2027.

Last winter, the local Winter Night Shelter identified 22 active cases of rough sleeping. Intensive efforts resulted in 12 of these being assisted into alternative housing and of the remaining 10, three had been temporarily accommodated pending fuller assessment.

Sharon Williams said: “Solid progress has been made in addressing the increased levels of rough sleeping and there are excellent examples of engaging with formerly entrenched vulnerable persons with moves to settled housing.

“More progress is expected after we roll out a new initiative to assist entrenched rough sleepers. There is real optimism that rough sleeping locally can be eliminated with the focused approach already adopted, and having made adjustments to more pro-active service delivery.”

Cabinet were told that there is a positive benefit in minimising social harm for households who are threatened with homelessness. There will be a continued emphasis on prevention enabling families and vulnerable persons to avoid a “crisis” moment and the loss of accommodation for their household.

Ashford homelessness in numbers (2018/19)
11% rise in homelessness approaches to ABC as a result of the Act
Households accepted as homeless down by half – from 160 to 71
Number of preventions nearly doubles – up from 148 to 293
34% fall in people in expensive temporary accommodation – down from 179 to 114
Parental eviction from the family home is No1 cause of homelessness – 19.34%


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