05 May 2021

Focusing on homelessness prevention post Covid-19

Guest blog: Tom Davies, Commercial Director, Xantura as part of our #DigitalPlace week

The impact of Covid-19 on Homelessness 

Covid-19 has had a significant impact on how councils deal with the issue of homelessness. The Homelessness Reduction Act (HRA) came into force in 2018, leading to increased demand for Housing services in a period of reduced funding due to austerity measures.  This has been accelerated by the pandemic and the financial and broader impacts that this has had on many households has led to increasing demand on councils to provide additional support to residents. 

From a positive perspective, in March 2020 the “Everyone in” campaign was launched with local authorities using a £3.2m increase in funding to ensure that people sleeping rough and in accommodation where it was difficult to self-isolate were safely accommodated to protect them, and the wider public, from the risks of Covid-19.  This led to approximately 15,000 people who were sleeping rough, in unsafe communal settings or at imminent risk of rough sleeping being placed into emergency accommodation and was followed in July 2020 by the Next Steps Accommodation Programme (NSAP) which aimed to provide the financial resources needed to support local authorities and their partners in preventing these people from returning to the streets. 

There is still a huge amount of work to be done, however these activities have led to many councils focusing their energies on the prevention agenda and trying to identify those households most at risk of presenting as homeless so that targeted early interventions can be delivered to prevent these outcomes. 

The challenges of supporting a preventative approach 

The challenge that many councils face, is that the first time they become aware of an issue is when a household contacts the council and presents as homeless.  At this point, it is often too late to explore and deliver a range of interventions that may have prevented the situation arising, and the only option available may be expensive Temporary Accommodation. 

Maidstone Council began exploring these issues back in 2019 before the pandemic had struck and launched their new Homelessness & Rough Sleeper Strategy, prioritising the prevention of homelessness. 

In order to transform and deliver on their new strategy, Maidstone recognised the need to overcome a number of challenges, namely: 

  • Using data and predictive analytics to understand the risk factors contributing to increased homelessness, and how to improve commissioning of services 

  • Early identification of those at risk of homelessness in order to proactively offer support, ensuring fair representation across geographical wards (three of which rank in the top 10% for deprivation in the broader Kent county)  

  • Accessing the increasing volume of citizen data held across internal and external systems; and 

  • Quickly and easily viewing information relevant to an individual or household through a ‘single view of household’ 

How Maidstone overcame these challenges 

The Council approached Xantura and EY to support their transformation towards a preventative service model.  

Collectively, we pioneered a new approach to tackling homelessness by implementing ‘OneView’ – an innovative data and analytics tool that brings together data from different areas to identify those at risk of future homelessness and enables councils to understand their services in a holistic way – ultimately transforming the way that vulnerable groups are supported.  

The tool also enabled allowed Maidstone to overcome a number of their key challenges including the delivery of a robust information governance process to manage multiple data sets, the creation of a single view of customer delivered in a textual case summary, interactive reporting and proactive alerts. 

What benefits did this deliver to the council 

Through the use of OneView, the council were able to identify households 3-6 months before they reached a crisis point and offer proactive support.  Over the course of 2020, this led to a 40% reduction in homelessness. 

The creation of the single view of households also reduced the administrative burden on staff enabling over 60 days to be reinvested in working directly with vulnerable citizens, with a potential to increase this to 160 days with a broader roll-out. 

The reduction in homelessness also led to actual cost savings of £225k, with potential savings of more than £550k if Maidstone had additional capacity; equivalent to 15% of the Housing budget.  

There is a significant government focus on ending rough sleeping and reducing homelessness over the course of this parliament and some good progress has already been made, however more needs to be done around prevention particularly as lockdown (and temporary support) eases and the real impact of the pandemic begins to materialise.  

The wok delivered by Maidstone council has shown that with the right systems & processes in place, councils can get on the front foot and proactively support those who need it earlier to provide better outcomes. 

Georgina Maratheftis

Georgina Maratheftis

Associate Director, Local Public Services, techUK

Rory Daniels

Rory Daniels

Programme Manager, Social Care, techUK