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Homelessness and Supporting People Network feature – Personal support

A pilot project on homelessness prevention showed the strengths of a multi-agency approach and was a winner at the Welsh Housing Awards

In September 2013 Neath Port Talbot CBC received Welsh Government funding to undertake a pilot project to explore and develop Personal Housing Plans (PHPs) in preparation for the introduction of the requirement to undertake all reasonable steps to achieve a suitable housing solution for all households that are homeless or threatened with homelessness. A steering group was established to monitor and direct the project and stakeholders were identified, namely the three S180 grant-funded advice organisations, Dewis, Gofal and Caer Las.

A consultation exercise with service users was carried out at an early stage of the project. This identified that service users have limited knowledge of the skills they require to achieve their goals and that the majority of them were unhappy with their current housing situation and would like to improve on it. Most people also stated that they would like a self-contained home with additional floating tenancy support to provide help with financial difficulties and assistance to access employment opportunities. 

Ongoing work and discussion with steering group representatives identified that a web based tool would support and add value to the pilot and enhance the sustainability of the project across agencies within the CBC area. The ‘tool’ guides service users through a series of questions and produces a personalised action plan incorporating the individual’s options including housing, welfare benefits, jobs and training. It will also enable the council to capture data more effectively, which in turn will demonstrate and evidence the effectiveness of homelessness prevention activity.

It was evident throughout the project that the S180 stakeholders were actively engaged and eager to contribute to the development of Personal Housing Plans. The agencies’ understanding of the forthcoming changes and their desire to work with the council to undertake ‘all reasonable steps’ has provided a platformto explore and develop a housing solutions compact. This is based on the principles contained within the service users standards framework as developed by Shelter Cymru. The compact will ensure agencies deliver a consistent, holistic response of a high standard.

As part of the grant conditions the project was evaluated at regular intervals. The stakeholders identified that the statutory housing options service is valued by them, citing strong communication links, good referral arrangements and acknowledge the current prevention work being undertaken within the service they also identified that the implementation of Personal Housing Plans will further strengthen the relationship.

The final evaluation was carried out in August 2014. The project officer set an eight-week trialling period for all agencies to promote and utilise the tool.  Over this period a total number of 34 Personal Housing Plans were completed. The evaluation was carried out on these households, who represent approximately 10 per cent of current housing options presentations. Feedback from all involved was very positive and the tool has been continued to be used by the partners and housing options staff engaged in homelessness prevention work, which will demonstrate and evidence the reasonable steps taken to achieve a suitable housing solution for those households who are homeless or threatened with homelessness. 

It has been recognised that the strength of the project is the multi-agency approach in the prevention of homelessness. This approach will be further strengthened by the housing solutions compact agreement, with a sub group to ensure compliance and to make any necessary changes to procedures and to review monitoring data. The project and the work of the partnership were also recognised at the recent CIH Cymru Welsh Housing Awards, which saw the project winning an award under the category ‘Best Innovation by a Local Authority’.  

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