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National Homeless Advice Service

Why have a prevention strategy

This section looks at why it makes sense for local authorities to have a prevention strategy, and the essential parts that make up an effective strategy.

An early years focus

It’s tempting for local authorities to focus most of their available resources on where the most acute pressures are likely to be. This means that demand can be met at the point of crisis, and allows them to fulfil their statutory duties.

However, there’s a strong, evidence-backed case for providing instead a comprehensive range of initiatives that focus on younger children. These initiatives need to be developed in a strategic way. Putting more resources into early intervention and prevention work is a strong ‘spend to save’ investment.

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Securing positive outcomes for young people

It makes even more strategic sense to have an increased focus on prevention in the context of changes resulting from the so-called ‘Southwark ruling’.

For local authority children’s services, prevention work will reduce the numbers coming into the looked-after system at 16 or 17.

This is not about ‘gatekeeping’, but securing positive outcomes through keeping young people at home or within the family network where it is safe to do so.

The government has published guidance on accommodation for 16 and 17 year olds for children’s and housing services in the light of the ‘Southwark ruling’.

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The longer term view

For housing services and supported accommodation commissioners, a longer-term view is needed. Effective prevention will bring down the number of young people presenting as homeless. It will reduce the demand for supported accommodation.

  • minimise demand - through education work in schools and other youth provision on the reality of housing choices
  • Identify potential crisis as early as possible - through partnership working with agencies who, through contact with children and their families at an early age, are in a position to identify those at risk of homelessness
  • Reduce crisis’ by working intensively with children, young people and families where a risk of homelessness is identified and helping them to become independent households in a planned and positive way

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