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News release from: 13/10/2023

Comment on Council’s Homeless Strategy

Comment on Council’s Homeless Strategy

A consultation into South Cambridgeshire District Council’s plans to tackle homelessness in the years ahead is underway – with residents encouraged to have their say.

The Council has a responsibility to prevent homelessness – and receives on average 453 homeless applications each year.

In recent years, more people have approached the Council for support once they are already homeless - rather than when they are threatened with homelessness. Getting in touch with the Council for support early – before becoming homeless – increases the options and support available. During the 12 months up until the end of June 2023, the Council prevented 210 households from becoming homeless, by providing support through its Housing Advice and Options service.

Locally and nationally, the main cause of homelessness is family and friends no longer being able to house someone, followed by end of a tenancy agreement, with domestic abuse being the third highest cause. People who approach the Council for support with homelessness tend to be of working age, with very few applications from those under 18 or over 65. Also, more applicants are employed than solely in receipt of benefits.

Now, South Cambridgeshire District Council is set to begin a consultation into an update to its Homeless Strategy. This is a document that all councils must have – and regularly review.

There are two priorities being proposed. The first is to provide homeless prevention, early intervention, and support. This includes:

  • The need to promote early intervention, increasing the opportunities the Council has to prevent homelessness. Part of this work is also ensuring that the Council prevents and intervenes to resolve rough sleeping.
  • Early and targeted money advice for those on a low income, including those in employment, to help with affordability.
  • Ongoing support and assistance for tenants and landlords in the private rented sector.
  • Ensuring the Council provides an inclusive service, taking account of all protected characteristics, particularly due to the increase in domestic abuse and high levels of homeless applications from those with mental and physical health needs.

The second priority being proposed is to provide suitable housing options. This includes:

  • Improving the housing options available for single people, including those for whom shared accommodation would not be suitable.
  • Reducing the use of bed and breakfast accommodation.
  • Building new Council Homes and Housing Association properties in South Cambridgeshire.
  • Increasing the provision of access to privately rented accommodation including through Shire Homes Lettings – the Council’s non-profit property management service which operates a private sector leasing scheme.
  • Ongoing work to support government refugee schemes including guests from Ukraine.

The Council is encouraging local people – plus those working in the housing sector in and around South Cambridgeshire – to take part in this consultation. The consultation runs until 5pm on Friday 5 January 2024 and responses can be made using an online form. If anyone wishes to receive paper literature so they can read the proposals and respond to them by hand, please call 01954 713 000.

colour photo portrait of Cllr Batchelor

South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Lead Cabinet Member for Housing, Cllr John Batchelor, said: “If you are at risk of becoming homeless or are worried about your housing situation, it is important to act as soon as possible. The earlier you get in touch with us, the more we may be able to do. This could be by helping you to stay in your home or finding other suitable accommodation. This important consultation outlines the areas that we are proposing to focus on, to prevent homelessness as best we can in the years ahead. There is no magic wand for everyone, but it is vital that we target the support and funds we do have in the areas that will make the most difference. This is why telling us what you think about our proposed priorities is key. All feedback is welcome – whether you agree with what we are suggesting or think we should be focusing in other areas.”

Anyone who feels they are in danger of becoming homeless should contact the Council as soon as possible.