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National Homeless Advice Service

The Autumn NHAS Roadshow - what happened?

Posted by nicola_marklew October 29, 2018

In the last two weeks of September, we ran our 6-monthly events to give staff from local authorities and partner agencies the opportunity to reflect on the challenges and learning that have taken place since the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act in April.

We welcomed 112 people from far and wide to the three events which were held in Nottingham, Leeds and Bristol. The day took a similar format to previous years, starting off with a thought provoking legal update from Shelter’s principal solicitor, John Gallagher. John took us through a number of key legislation changes; the homelessness reduction
act, going into detail with the relief duty, local connection and unreasonable refusal to cooperate amongst other topics, as well as focusing discussion on relevant case law. John also talked about changes in the private rented sector; the Deregulation Act changes, the Housing and Planning act 2016 changes as well as what’s coming up. You can access John’s talk on YouTube, here.

Challenges, learning and good practice that was explored following the legal update threw up many instances of what’s working and what’s not. You can read up on what was said on the Roadshow section of the website. Issues raised and good practice examples from this session, as well as other parts of the day, will be fed back to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. Please note, you need to be logged in to the website to access this discussion piece.

Well led workshops followed the engaging group discussion sessions on what we’ve seen from the implementation of the HRA so far. Guest speakers from local authorities in the event location told us what they had been experiencing in the last 6 months: if they’ve done anything different, where their learning is coming from and what challenges need to be overcome. What became apparent very quickly is the way these authorities are working with partner agencies to get the best possible outcomes. Leeds City Council are leaning on the expertise of those with lived experience of homelessness. Broxtowe Borough Council are working with other councils in the region to pool together resources. Bristol City Council are funding advisers in other organizations to provide specialist debt and welfare benefit advice.

You can find the presentations from the sessions on the Roadshow section of the website.

Our trainers Isabel and Doug then led their respective sessions on the HRA duty to refer, which is now in force. With a mixture of local and public authorities and other advice agencies in the room, all contributed to discussions and certainly had much to say! Many different opinions and ideas were brought to the table, and we can take three main messages away about the new duty:

- Without threat of consequence, there is a fear that the duty will not be taken seriously by public authorities

- Protocols that have been set up already, some ‘in silo’, will need working through before they are completely right

- All agencies want the duty to have a positive effect, but want the systems in place that make it as easy as possible for staff e.g. simple standardised referral forms.

Following the workshops, our consultancy service lead, Andy, gave delegates an overview of what’s happening in the NHAS at the moment. Most notable is a change in the remit of the service: public authorities are now able to access all parts of the NHAS, with training that has been tailored and a new section of the website set up. A ‘duty to refer’ resource section on the website is now available for all agencies to access that includes direct links to useful factsheets.

Throughout the day we focused a lot on working together.

The NHAS network closed Facebook group has been set up with the purpose of people coming together to share ideas, ask questions and post useful resources. Join the group to be on a level ‘virtual’ platform with peers across different organisations and different parts of the country. We hope to carry conversations on from these roadshows into this group and have identified 3 main areas of discussion: Personal Housing Plans, intentional homelessness and IT.

Andy also mentioned the Specialist Debt Advice service that is provided by Shelter, again free of charge, to those who give free to client debt advice.

To finish off the day, delegates set questions to a panel of speakers that included John, Martin, Isabel or Doug and a guest local authority presenter. You can find a number of questions with answers that were asked over the three events on the Roadshow section of the website.

We would like to thank all who attended and all who gave their time to present at the event and look forward to welcoming you all again in the spring!