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Helping South Holland people threatened with being homeless

Younger adults and vulnerable groups like care leavers, ex-offenders and armed forces veterans will get help for the first time now a new law aimed at preventing homelessness is in force.

The Homeless Reduction Act has introduced key changes, one of which will see councils like South Holland District (SHDC) offering tailor-made help to an individual some 56 days before a valid eviction (Section 21) notice expires – double the previous period.

And all eligible people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness will be helped regardless of priority need.

SHDC has been given £62,000 by the Government towards the cost of the changes over the next three years.

Portfolio holder for housing and health Coun Christine Lawton says two new staff have been taken on to help with the increased workload.

Coun Lawton said: “The Act is about preventing homelessness rather than dealing with it on the ground – it means we can know of people who are at risk of becoming homeless and then we can work with them on a plan to find them accommodation.”

The Act introduces assessments and personalised housing plans, setting out actions the council and the individual will take to secure accommodation.

The council will provide free information and advice on:

• Preventing homelessness

• Securing accommodation when homeless

• The rights of homeless people and those threatened with homelessness, and the duties of the council

• Any help that is available from the council or third parties

More help for younger people is a significant step.

Coun Lawton said: “Previously, if you were a young, single male under 25 we would give you advice and, if you were in work, that would be it ... we would have discharged our duty.”

Now the council has a duty to create a personal housing plan with the under 25s, the same as they will do for other groups.

There is no legal requirement for the council to directly secure accommodation for anyone, although it can where appropriate.

Coun Lawton says the major change in the law was brought about by Tory MP Bob Blackman with a Private Member’s Bill, which won backing from all sides of the House.

Speaking on Tuesday, the day it became law, Mr Blackman said: “It’s a comprehensive change to the law which will shift the emphasis firmly towards preventing homelessness from ever occurring in the first place, and it will ensure that care leavers, ex-offenders, NHS patients, armed forces veterans and other vulnerable groups will receive help and advice for the first time.”

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