Homelessness Trailblazer

Trailblazer: the mission

The government’s Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has set up a network of Homelessness Prevention Trailblazers across England “who want to go further and faster with reform and develop innovative new approaches to preventing homelessness”. The Trailblazers “will carry out prevention activity earlier and work with a wider group of people – not just those who are owed the main homelessness duty”. 

You can find briefing notes here setting out why and how you can get involved…

What is a trailblazer?

Trailblazers have to

  • Collaborate with other services to identify at-risk households and target interventions well before they are threatened with eviction.
  • Help people 56 days or even earlier when they are threatened with the loss of their home.
  • Offer that help to a wider group of people than just those owed the main homelessness duty, and
  • Test new, innovative approaches to prevent homelessness, to help build DCLG’s evidence on what works and test the effects of these approaches in different areas.

Here is a link to DCLG’s homelessness trailblazer bid resources including the prospectus and bid form. A list of other successful bidders is set out here.

Our vision

In September 2016 partners from Cambridgeshire and Peterborough got together to prepare a bid. Our vision is that “by empowering all public facing staff to identify the risk of homelessness and work together to prevent it, we make homelessness the ‘unacceptable outcome”. You can read the whole bid here, and these slides summarise it visually. In December 2016 we discovered our bid had been successful and we had secured an additional £736,400 funding.

You can download our flyer here.

Our vision is that

  • Homelessness becomes the “unacceptable outcome”
  • Homelessness specialists are employed who link housing advice and other early help teams, to spot potential homelessness and coordinate actions to prevent it.
  • Public-facing staff get homelessness prevention training , supported by e-learning.
  • Partners are helped to spot early warning signs of homelessness, and know who to turn to for help, for example through a housing health-check tool.
  • Frontline staff get training to enable them to deal with “difficult interactions” and help secure better long term outcomes for the people they are helping.

Late in 2018, the project got approval to continue for a further twelve months beyond its original funding.

Trailblazer projects

As well as advising people and partner agencies about individual cases, helping prevent homelessness, the Trailblazer project runs various projects to help increase understanding and seek new ways to solve problems and work together better. Some examples are:

  • Public agencies committing to work together: A number of organisations in Peterborough and Cambridgeshire are changing the way they tackle homelessness and have developed a new memorandum of understanding which sets out how they agree to prevent homelessness, because homelessness is unacceptable and affects local ambitions – for example our ambitions to create healthy and safe communities and to encourage economic growth.
  • Building partnerships: A statement of intent has also been developed, based on the memorandum, which non-statutory partners can sign up to, to show their commitment to making homelessness the unacceptable outcome. Having a lot of public sector organisations get involved is a fabulous start, but the more partners across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough who join in with the Trailblazer the better, so we can work to prevent and tackle homelessness together. If you’d like to be part of the Trailblazer way of working, please contact trailblazer@fenland.gov.uk to find out more.
  • Links with criminal justice: Housing and criminal justice partners are working together, with support from the Police and Crime Commissioner, to agree how best to work together. A workshop was held in 2018 which resulted in this report in May 2018. Further work led partners to update the protocol (initiated in January 2017) with accompanying slides. The protocol is now being embedded and promoted with partners across the criminal justice system.
  • Motivational training: the team has embarked on a creative development initiative to have a positive and lasting impact in reducing homelessness. The aim is to reach all practitioners across district and county councils who have conversations with clients at risk of homelessness. Positive and early engagement with these individuals increases the likelihood of raising awareness and personal responsibility – as well as willingness to access support. To do this, the team is introducing a motivational skills approach to making sensitive or difficult conversations as constructive and productive as possible. You can find out more by looking at our training-poster-july-sept-2019.
  • Working to reduce debts: Debt advice and resolving arrears are key to homelessness prevention. We will help by support the Making Money Count (MMC) web resource, which will help publicise our project. Making Money Count already provides employment links, a directory of services and links with the Cambridgeshire Local Assistance Scheme. Building Better Opportunities helps people back into work.
  • Sharing information about who does what: Cambridgeshire’s care and support directory and our Guide to Housing help partners understand what we all do, why, and who for.
  • Coming in 2019/20…
    • Tackling hoarding issues
    • Working with partners to tackle homelessness linked to mental health and substance misuse – you can find details of an event being planned here.
    • Working with hospitals to help patients who are difficult to release from hospital bue to homelessness or housing issues.

Our partners

The homelessness prevention network…

  • Cements collaboration between all public sector agencies and partners to prevent homelessness.
  • Works to prevent homelessness upstream, including people who are not yet in ‘priority need’.
  • Helps staff identify early warning signs of homelessness and find new ways to prevent it.
  • Makes sure every interaction counts.

Partners include

  • The Housing Board coving Cambridgeshire, Peterborough & West Suffolk
  • Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group
  • Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust
  • Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Public Services Board
  • Cambridgeshire County Council teams including Adult Drug Treatment and Criminal Justice, Children, Adults and Families, Adult Social Care, Chronically Excluded Adults, Drug and Alcohol Team and Mental Health Commissioning.
  • Public Health
  • Together for Families
  • Cambridgeshire Insight partnership
  • CHS Group including Building Better Opportunities and Making Money Count
  • Department of Work & Pensions
  • Police & Crime Commissioner
  • Police Integrated Offender Management
  • Probation
  • Local Registered Social Landlords
  • District housing authorities: Cambridge, East Cambridgeshire, Fenland, Huntingdonshire, South Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

Trailblazing teams

Homelessness Prevention

The homelessness prevention team provides a service, helping a wide range of local teams work better together, to reduce homelessness. We will be helping staff identify the early warning signs of homelessness and ways to prevent it.

The team will build good working relationships and deliver a better service by linking agencies up. This will help our area prepare for the UK’s new Homelessness Reduction Act 2017. This should also reduce the number of people needing to apply as homeless, and local use of temporary accommodation.

What can we help with?

  • Educating agencies to recognise the early warning signs of homelessness and ways to prevent it.
  • Helping people as early as possible when threatened with homelessness, regardless of “priority need”.
  • Promoting a new housing health-check and new budgeting tools.
  • Supporting agencies to make action plans for those at risk of homelessness.
  • Ensuring customers are engaging with help given, to ensure a positive outcome.
  • Working closely with housing options teams to see what has been successful and what has not, using the feedback to further develop the project.

The list will increase as the project progresses. Referrals are welcome. Please e-mail us at trailblazer@fenland.gov.uk

The landlord rents and solutions service

Loss of rented or tied accommodation is our biggest reason for homelessness acceptances, totalling 400 cases over the past 15 months in our area. The landlord rents and solutions service helps landlords maintain tenancies, resolve tenancy problems and reduce evictions which are leading to homeless acceptances.

The service offers free specialist help and advice to agents, landlords and tenants to help maintain tenancies and try to help resolve tenancy problems that may otherwise lead to evictions. If the team is not able to help directly, we may know of other services we can refer to.

What can we help with?

  • Housing Benefit claims, including applications for Discretionary Housing Payments
  • Debt problems leading to rent arrears
  • Eviction and harassment
  • Landlord responsibilities
  • Tenant responsibilities
  • Property repairs and maintenance
  • Environmental health and/or housing enforcement
  • Referrals to appropriate tenancy support services.

You can download our Landlord Rent and Solutions Service poster here.

To get in touch, please call the team on 07872 422 024 or e-mail trailblazer@fenland.gov.uk

New business development

Enabling people on low incomes to secure private rented accommodation is now the most significant housing route to prevent homelessness.

Two new business development officers will develop schemes that facilitate access into good quality, affordable and suitable private rented homes. The aim is to

  • Increase supply of affordable housing options for households in need, co-operating with existing offers and exploring making furnished lets available.
  • Better use of existing data on rents, local housing allowance rates and housing turnaround times to identify any target areas.

What can we help with?

  • Working with existing private rental schemes.
  • Setting up new private rent schemes, for example; guaranteed rent schemes for private landlords.
  • Facilitating new supplies of accessible rental accommodation.

To get in touch, please e-mail trailblazer@fenland.gov.uk