The Communities & Local Government Select Committee, chaired by Clive Betts MP, has been providing an oversight of the Government's introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, in a one-off evidence session this week, with a number of interested parties – including Crisis (Matt Downie), Shelter (Deborah Garvie) and the Local Government Association (Rachel Eburne) – before hearing from the Minister for Local Government, Marcus Jones MP.
The Act commencement is planned for April 2018. To that end, draft statutory guidance was published on 16 October 2017, with the public consultation period ending on 11 December 2017.
Issues raised with witnesses included the adequacy of the £72.7 million allocated to authorities nationwide to deal with the new burdens imposed by the Act for 2017-2020; the early lessons learned by the "trailblazing authorities" testing out the new provisions (such as the London Borough of Southwark); the sufficiency of the referral provisions and the draft guidance dealing with the new preventative role placed on local housing authorities; the impact of welfare reforms; and the proper approach to the question of non-cooperation.
In particular, local authorities highlighted the need for further training and guidance, and pointed out that the period between the end of the consultation and the implementation of the Act might be too short.
The Minister sought to offer reassurances as to the Government's commitment to both the letter and spirit of the new legislation, its proposed serious but light-touch oversight of local authorities' application of the powers and duties imposed, and its commitment to review the funding question at the end of a two-year period. He also reassured the Committee that the Act would be reviewed within two years.
The Cornerstone Housing Team is hosting a series of training sessions across the country in January and February to provide practical advice about the implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act.
If you like to see the dates and book a place, please click here.
Kelvin Rutledge QC and Andy Lane.