Ombudsman report finds some Councils are still failing to prevent homelessness
The report assesses the impact of the Homelessness Reduction Act
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman published on 21 March, a report on learning the lessons from complaints received about the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, marking the fifth anniversary of the coming into force of the Act. The Ombudsman’s report finds that vulnerable people are still facing homelessness due to some councils ‘still not getting it right’.
The Act gave councils more substantial responsibilities to help prevent homelessness, including the requirement for councils to accept homelessness applications, carry out adequate assessments, develop personalised housing plans and provide interim accommodation where necessary. The report, which is based on the Ombudsman’s casework, highlights specific instances in which councils have failed to prevent homelessness. The report aims to assist local councils examine their processes and procedures, which includes compliance with the Ombudsman’s principles of good administrative practice, to identify any gaps in the practical application of their obligations.
The report states that although the Ombudsman sees many examples where councils have adopted the correct approach to the principles and processes set out in the Homelessness Reduction Act, ‘too often our investigations still find that councils have failed to issue a Personalised Housing Plan or consider the support needs of the applicant. Complainants still tell us they were turned away and told to come back when the court issues a warrant for their eviction.’
The latest figures from the Ombudsman reveal that 372 complaints were received about homelessness in 2021-22, of which 75 per cent of the 126 investigations carried out were upheld. The most complaints were from the London region, with nearly 60 per cent of all complaints, and 65 per cent of all upheld complaints from people in the region.
Michael King, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “Five years since the new Act came into force, we would have expected the right systems and processes to have been embedded, and for officers to be well aware of their duties. But unfortunately, this is not always the case and too often we are finding councils at fault. Although we see many examples where councils have got things right, too often our investigations still find that councils have failed in the basics: they haven’t issued a Personalised Housing Plan or considered the support needs of the applicant.”