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Homelessness prevention strategy launched

Mansfield District Council has launched a new strategy which pledges to end rough sleeping and help as many residents as possible from becoming homeless.

Executive Mayor of Mansfield Andy Abrahams welcomed delegates at the launch of the council's new Homelessness Prevention Strategy at the Civic Centre yesterday (5 June).

Among the delegates were representatives from Homeless Link, a national charity organisation working with the homeless, which was commissioned to draw up the strategy in partnership with Mansfield District Council, Ashfield District Council and Newark and Sherwood District Council.

The Mayor said: "Homelessness is probably one of the most difficult and complex issues any housing authority has to tackle. 

"Mansfield is no different from many towns and cities across the country in seeing an increase in the number of people needing a roof over their head.

"The council's Homelessness Strategy sets out how it plans to approach this issue in respect of its statutory duties and taking into account new legislation which puts an increased onus on local authorities to prevent people from becoming homeless.

"Every tenant deserves to live in a safe and decent home and to be treated fairly. We need to find ways to make private rented housing financially more accessible to people in need of a home and better ways of resolving disputes between tenants and landlords.

"I would like to thank all those who helped to bring together this strategy for all three councils - Mansfield, Ashfield and Newark and Sherwood. It will help us to focus collectively to find a way of reducing homelessness in all of our districts, something that can only be welcomed by every single person who lives here." 

The strategy, which runs until 2024, is based on evidence and analysis of the local situation, a survey of local providers and interviews, focus groups and surveys of local people who are classed as homeless.

Its main aims are to:

  • Prevent as many residents as possible from becoming homeless.
  • Ensure that if anyone has to sleep rough, it is brief and does not happen again. 
  • Help as many residents as possible to move seamlessly from one home to another without the need for emergency or temporary accommodation.
  • Provide a good quality service that customers are highly satisfied with. 

It has various objectives to achieve its four main aims, including supporting and promoting "a proactive and integrated" benefits system. For the council this has meant increasing the number of officers who deal with rent arrears and debt, which are major causes of eviction and, subsequently, homelessness. 

Helping people transfer to the Universal Credit benefit without falling into debt has also been a major focus of this work. 

In addition, it is looking at encouraging people to save with credit unions and to reduce food insecurity by encouraging people to grow their own food, and by providing access to free food and cooking skills classes.

Another objective is to increase the amount of social housing and the council plans to do this through a £21m programme to build more than 100 new council homes over the next five years.

But there is also a need, says the strategy, to increase access to private rented accommodation and improve the sustainability of tenancies. 

Jill Finnesey, Head of Housing at Mansfield District Council, said: "We have new duties under the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 to tackle this issue but reducing and preventing homelessness is not something the council can do alone. 

"We need to work closely with partners, such as charities and housing associations and with private landlords to find solutions to people at risk. We want to encourage the wider community, too, to do their bit to help those at risk.

"Often people at risk have underlying problems, such as addictions, mental health issues or domestic abuse, so we need to ensure that their individual needs are met appropriately, holistically and sustainably."

The strategy also points to local success stories, such as Mansfield's ASSIST scheme, which is making a huge impact in reducing bed blocking in the NHS by helping patients who do not have suitable accommodation to move into after they leave hospital.

It has been working closely with Nottinghamshire County Council, too, to ensure care leavers are supported and transfer to independent living without falling into homelessness. 

The three councils have asked Homeless Link to carry out a progress review this year to assess the impact of the new legislation to reduce homelessness. The full strategy can be found at www.mansfield.gov.uk/homeless.

Published on 6 June 2019

 

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