Housing Rights responds to the draft Homelessness Strategy
The Housing Executive has a statutory duty to publish a homelessness strategy every 5 years. The draft Strategy for 2017-2022 is titled ‘Ending Homelessness Together’, and has 5 objectives towards this ultimate vision. The Strategy also aims to align with the draft Programme for Government, by adopting an outcomes-based approach.
Housing Rights’ key comments
Housing Rights welcomes the draft Strategy’s emphasis on homelessness prevention. This could be strengthened by ensuring that prevention work, already being carried out by many community and voluntary agencies, is explicitly recognised.
It is imperative that the Housing Executive safeguard the potential of the Housing Solutions model, by quality assuring its operation. This could be achieved by the implementation of robust guidance, such as that employed in Scotland, and the adoption of a Housing Advice Quality Standard.
Housing Rights, as an organisation which currently employs the ‘P1E’ definition of homelessness prevention, would welcome involvement in any considerations of a Northern Ireland-specific definition of “prevention of homelessness.”
In developing a “Common Assessment Methodology” to identify clients’ housing and support needs, Housing Rights recommends that the Strategy considers the Scottish experience of housing support needs assessments.
The Housing Executive should take steps to communicate the rights and entitlements of those with “no recourse to public funds” to relevant partners, and further improve data collection on the needs of this group.
Housing Rights believes, due to our work with chronic homeless clients, that the objective relating to chronic homelessness could be strengthened if the definition of a positive outcome for this group was reconsidered. For chronic homeless clients, the “direction of travel” in accessing and sustaining accommodation is often an important outcome in itself.
The Homelessness Strategy Steering Group could contribute to the Strategy’s implementation and evaluation, by mirroring the role played by stakeholders in the Programme for Government, and providing wider context to the Strategy’s work.
Housing Rights recommends that the Equality Screening carried out on the draft Strategy is published.
Housing Rights welcomes the adoption of an outcomes-based approach in the draft Strategy. This could be strengthened by improving the Strategy’s alignment with the Programme for Government, removing inconsistencies between Strategy objectives/actions and outcomes, and altering and expanding the indicators used. Specific suggestions are made in this regard.