A workshop to help a range of organisations improve the service for homeless people is taking place next week.
Stafford Borough Council has introduced the session to coincide with a change in the law in what they say will be a ‘challenge’ for local authorities.
The council was the first in the midlands to reach gold standard for its homeless work and last year helped prevent around 600 people and families keep a roof over their head.
In January the government announced new national statistics which showed rough sleeping in Stafford had halved – with the council being singled out in the House of Lords as a borough that is working well to address the issue.
In April the ‘Homelessness Reduction Act’ comes into force and places new duties on local authorities and other public sector bodies. A similar scheme in Wales saw a 25% increase in the people through the doors of local authorities.
One of the key changes to the ‘Act’ will mean people can start asking for help from 56 days of being under the threat of homelessness – helping to improve the chance of preventing someone losing their accommodation. The previous legislation kicked in at 28 days.
Now organisations such as the police, probation service, Citizen’s Advice Bureau, Eagle House and Staffordshire Women’s Aid will be attending the seminar on Wednesday (14 February) to hear from speakers including a Government housing representative.
Part of the change introduced by the council will mean the public can go to several organisations and charities across the borough and be able to book appointments to see a housing expert. They will also be given advice on what they need before taking up the appointment. Up until now, people could only get an appointment by turning up at the council’s Civic Centre base in Stafford.
Councillor Jeremy Pert, the Cabinet Member for Communities, said:
“We have been successful in our homeless prevention work and cutting the numbers who are sleeping rough. This has been recognised on a national scale both in the media and in Parliament.
He added: “This new legislation will be challenging and we will be working with all our responsible partners so that people will not be without accommodation and those that need help are given the appropriate support.
“Key to all of this will be continuing to have in place the mechanisms to help those most vulnerable in our communities.”
Last year the council successfully secured more than £200k for rough sleeping initiatives including a Community Matron – dubbed the ‘Angel of Stafford’ by local people – and a ‘Housing First’ project.
The event takes place at 10am at the Civic Centre, Riverside, Stafford on Wednesday 14 February.
Organisations who think they would benefit from attending should contact Hayley firstname.lastname@example.org or 01785 619554 by Monday 12 February.