New law will help Chesterfield council tackle homeless problem

Homelessness is a growing problem.
Homelessness is a growing problem.

Chesterfield Borough Council will have to do more to tackle homelessness under a new law.

The Homelessness Reduction Act - which is considered to be the most significant piece of housing legislation since the 1970s - came into force last week.

The bill imposes new legal duties on English councils to prevent and relieve homelessness.

Among other things, local authorities must step in earlier to prevent people becoming homeless in the first place and provide free advice services and personalised plans to keep people in their homes.

Councillor Helen Bagley, the borough council's cabinet member for homes and customers, said: "The Homelessness Reduction Act will give us more duties, which will allow us to help more people who find themselves homeless.

"For example, it will allow us to regularly access homes owned by private landlords which may meet people’s needs better than ones owned by the council.

"The act also means potential tenants need only to have a reasonable chance of sustaining a tenancy for a period of six months, making it easier for us to find places for them.

"We will work with people to develop a personalised housing plan specific to their needs which will clearly set out what the council will do for them and what steps they will need to take themselves to stay in accommodation longer.

"Although the act may place more pressures on the council and lead to an increase in enquiries, this is outweighed by the benefits of allowing us to assist more people who need our help."

According to latest figures released by the Government, there are 71 rough sleepers across Derbyshire.

Rough sleeping increased in the county by 317 per cent between 2010 and last autumn.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of homeless charity Crisis, said he was 'delighted' the act had come into force.

"This is the biggest change to England's homelessness legislation for 40 years and a big step in the right direction towards ending homelessness for good," he said.

"The Government must now ensure that councils have the funding and resources they need to successfully implement the act."

A Government spokesman said: “We are taking bold action and have committed to halving rough sleeping by 2022 and eliminating it altogether by 2027.

“We are investing £1.2billion to tackle all forms of homelessness.”