For North Hertfordshire District Council

December 2018
FOR NORTH HERTFORDSHIRE DISTRICT COUNCIL ........................................... 1
1.      INTRODUCTION ............................................................................................. 3
1.1     METHODS ...................................................................................................... 3
1.2     LEGISLATIVE CONTEXT ............................................................................... 3
1.3     LOCAL CONTEXT .......................................................................................... 4
2.      RESEARCH FINDINGS .................................................................................. 6
        ASSISTANCE ................................................................................................. 8
2.3     HOMELESSNESS PREVENTION ................................................................ 14
2.4     DECISIONS MADE ON THE MAIN HOUSING DUTY ................................... 18
        DISTRICT COUNCIL..................................................................................... 21
        HERTFORDSHIRE ....................................................................................... 30
        CHANGES .................................................................................................... 33
3.      CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS ............................................. 35
3.1     RECOMMENDATIONS ................................................................................. 35
ANNEX 1: DATA TABLES ....................................................................................... 38


North Hertfordshire District Council (NHDC) commissioned RSM Economic Consulting to undertake this review of
homelessness in North Hertfordshire (North Herts) to inform the new Housing Strategy. The government requires
all local authorities in England to review homelessness in order to formulate a homelessness strategy at least every
five years.

1.1     Methods
The review was undertaken in October to November 2018 and comprised:

•   Data analysis, comprising:

    –   analysis of administrative data collected by North Hertfordshire District Council on homeless applications,
        assistance and advice. The analysis explored trends in homelessness over the last five years, the impact of
        the Homelessness Reduction Act (in April 2018), and equality monitoring data.

    –   data on the overall population of North Hertfordshire, in order to explore which groups are at greatest risk of
        homelessness and data on homeless acceptances, and prevention and relief statistics, from the last five
        years for England, and for the other districts in Hertfordshire, in order to set North Hertfordshire in context

•   Mapping service provision, drawing on information held by North Hertfordshire as well as web-based research
    in order to list all providers of accommodation and services to homeless people, in or near North Hertfordshire.
    Providers were categorised by size, client group, location, type of accommodation and level of support

•   Telephone interviews with representatives from key agencies working with homeless people in Hertfordshire.
    These comprised:

    –   NHDC Homelessness and Housing Advice Manager

    –   NHDC Housing Needs Manager

    –   Citizens Advice Bureau

    –   Settle

    –   Stevenage Haven

    –   The Probation Service

    –   Herts Young Homeless

    –   Stevenage Against Domestic Abuse

    –   Hertfordshire County Council (social services)

    –   The Police

1.2     Legislative Context
The Homelessness Reduction Act came into force in April 2018. Prior to the Act, local authorities had duties to
certain households who were homeless or threatened with homelessness under Part 7 of the 1996 Housing Act.
They were required to make inquiries to establish what duty, if any, is owed to someone seeking homelessness
assistance. This included determining whether an applicant had a ‘priority need’ for homelessness assistance.
Those who are found to be in priority need and unintentionally homeless were owed what is referred to as the ‘full
housing duty’ meaning local authorities were obliged to secure that suitable accommodation is made available for
them. Non-priority need households (which includes most single people and childless couples, unless they are
vulnerable), were entitled to ‘advice and assistance’ only.

The Homelessness Reduction Act amended these duties and introduced several new duties including:

•   a duty to assess the needs and circumstances of all eligible applicants who are homeless or threatened with
    homelessness within 56 days;
•   a duty to help secure accommodation for all applicants who are eligible for assistance and threatened with
    homelessness (including those who do not fall into a priority need group);
•   a duty to assist people at risk of homelessness within the next 56 days (rather than 28 days, as was previously
    the case);
•   a duty to help those who are already homeless for up to 56 days;
•   increased obligations on other public bodies to refer service users who they think may be homeless or
    threatened with homelessness to a housing authority (with consent), which came into effect in October 2018;
•   modification to the local connection criteria to clarify that care leavers always have a local connection to the
    local authority that looked after them (and in some cases, also the district where they were living, if different).

Homeless prevention duties include the obligation to assess the circumstances of people at risk of homelessness
and to ensure they have a personal housing plan, setting out actions that they and that council officers will take to
help prevent or relieve their homelessness. Local authorities are obliged to take ‘reasonable steps’ to help all
eligible homeless applicants access accommodation.

Local authorities are required to ensure services are designed to meet the needs of particular groups that are at
increased risk of becoming homeless including (but not limited to); care leavers, people leaving prison, people who
have left the regular armed forces, victims of domestic abuse, people leaving hospital and people suffering from a
mental illness or impairment.

1.3    Local Context
Local authorities were given some additional funding to help them meet the responsibilities placed on them under
the Homelessness Reduction Act. The economic and welfare context, however, is challenging. Local Housing
Allowance has been frozen for several years, causing it to fall well below market rents in many areas. The table
below shows the difference between Local Housing Allowance rates and market rents across North Hertfordshire:

Table 1: Local Housing Allowance and market rents by property size and Broad Market Rental Area in North Hertfordshire

Number of bedrooms1             Local Housing Allowance Market rents (£, weekly)               Shortfall (£, weekly)
                                (£, weekly)
Shared Accommodation           72.04                           128.54                         56.50

1 bed                          129.81                          163.38                         33.57

2 bed                          160.03                          204.92                         44.89

3 bed                          197.81                          266.08                         68.27

4 bed                          253.34                          401.08                         147.74

Source: Valuation Office Agency and LHA direct

This means that it is now very hard for low income households to afford to rent privately. North Hertfordshire has a
slightly higher than average proportion of social housing, but the high costs of market housing are likely to mean
that demand for social housing greatly exceeds supply.

High market rents, the freeze and caps on increases in Local Housing Allowance and constrained access to social
housing make it hard for low income households in North Hertfordshire to solve their own housing difficulties.
People living in homeless hostels and other forms of temporary accommodation find it hard to move on, which in
turn means that people at immediate risk of homelessness or on the streets may be unable to find even temporary

North Hertfordshire also has challenges relating to its geography – it is a large predominately rural district with four
quite distinct towns within it (Letchworth, Baldock, Hitchin and Royston). People homeless in one town may not
readily move to another. Furthermore, agencies providing support/homeless services operate across differing
boundaries, with some working just in N Herts district, others working across the whole county and some
(particularly third sector agencies) operating across district and county boundaries. The district lies north of London
in a part of the country with high house prices and rents, fuelled in part by the proximity to the London jobs market.
Housing demand is similar throughout the region, as the area near Royston – which is furthest from London – is
closest to Cambridge, a high-priced city.

1Based on Stevenage and North Hertfordshire Broad Rental Market Area for November 2018. The district also
overlaps with Luton, South East Hertfordshire and South West Hertfordshire BRMAs, but the main area of the
district is covered by the Stevenage and North Hertfordshire BRMA.


2.1     The causes of homelessness in North Hertfordshire
Homelessness is a growing problem across England. The 2018 Homelessness Monitor, the latest in a series
produced annually by Crisis, concluded that:

    •   rough sleeping rose by 169% between 2010 and 2017;
    •   the number of households accepted as homeless by local authorities are 48% higher than in 2010;
    •   Local Housing Allowance reforms appear to be the main driver behind growing numbers of evictions from
        private rented accommodation; and
    •   there was an 11% drop in new social lettings in the year 2016-17 and reports of growing social landlord
        anxieties around letting to benefit-dependent tenants and those with complex needs.

North Hertfordshire faces these same challenges. Some limited information is available on the causes of
homelessness as recorded for those approaching the Council for assistance. Since April 2018, the reason for
homeless was recorded for 590 cases, as shown below:

Table 2: Reasons for homelessness April – September 2018 (all cases where data is available)

Reason for homelessness                                                            Number              Percentage
Family no longer willing or able to accommodate                                   123                 21%

Relationship with partner ended (non-violent breakdown)                           90                  15%

End of private rented tenancy - assured shorthold tenancy2                        79                  13%

Domestic abuse                                                                    66                  11%

End of private rented tenancy - not assured shorthold tenancy                     31                  5%

End of social rented tenancy                                                      27                  5%

Friends no longer willing or able to accommodate                                  27                  5%

Eviction from supported housing                                                   14                  2%

Non-racially motivated / other motivated violence or harassment                   9                   2%

Property disrepair                                                                7                   1%

Racially motivated violence or harassment                                         3                   1%

Fire or flood / other emergency                                                   2                   0.3%

Left HM Forces                                                                    2                   0.3%

Left institution with no accommodation available                                  1                   0.2%

Mortgage repossession                                                             1                   0.2%

Other                                                                             108                 18%

Total                                                                             590                 100%

Source: North Hertfordshire District Council

Recording the main reasons in this manner inevitably fails to capture the complexity of some people’s lives and
difficulties. Stakeholders from a range of agencies were asked about the causes of homelessness for the people
they worked with. They reported a range of causes, though two key themes dominated: people with multiple
difficulties, and people whose incomes were insufficient to afford rents. The first group include those with mental
health problems and drug and alcohol addictions. The second were struggling to maintain housing essentially due
to poverty – their incomes did not cover rent. These difficulties were often caused or exacerbated by benefit

2 Of these, the most common reason provided by the tenant for the end of the tenancy was that the landlord
wanted to sell (40 cases). Other reported reasons included rent arrears due to reduction in employment income (5),
rent arrears due to changes in personal circumstances (3), rent arrears due to difficulty budgeting (3), rent arrears
following changes in benefit entitlement (1), tenant abandoned property (1), tenant complained about disrepair (1)
and other (18). The tenant did not know a reason for the remaining seven cases.

sanctions, delays or welfare cuts. Agencies interviewed felt that overall the complexity of needs within the
homeless population was increasing, with homeless people presenting with multiple issues alongside
homelessness. This may be related to a sense within the voluntary sector that funding was becoming more limited,
forcing them to set the barrier for help very high.

Young people primarily become homeless because of conflict with their parents. This was felt to be a higher risk for
those in complex family structures with step-parents and separated parents, creating a more challenging
environment for young people to navigate.

People in the private rented sector were commonly asked to leave because of rent arrears or because their
landlord decided to sell up. People coming out of prison or the care system were known to be at high risk of
homelessness. Poverty and financial pressures were felt to contribute to domestic abuse, relationship breakdown
and offending behaviour, all of which could then lead to homelessness. Overall, it was felt that the private rented
housing market in North Hertfordshire is a “landlords’ market” where they could choose tenants, but tenants had
very little choice, especially if they had low incomes.

Welfare reforms were also identified as contributing to recent increases in homelessness – in particular the Local
Housing Allowance cap which has been frozen and now sits well below market rents (see Table 1), with the overall
benefit cap also contributing to making private rented housing unaffordable to those on benefits. The delays in
administration of Universal Credit, and the housing benefit cuts for social tenants with spare bedrooms were also
known to be issues, as were sanctions imposed on people who had failed to keep to their job-seeking agreements.
People with benefit difficulties also often had wider debt issues, where repayments were unaffordable and hence
rent could not be afforded alongside other commitments.

Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB) reported that the people most likely to be evicted from a tenancy, were those who
had failed to realise what was happening, or to seek help until very late on in the process. This was thought at
times to be due to people hoping that problems would go away if they were ignored. However, difficulties in reading
and understanding letters from landlords threatening possession actions were also identified as an issue – people
were reported as turning up at court with the keys to their home, expecting to lose it then and there, and unaware
that there were actions they could take at that stage to avert eviction. Delays in getting court letters out of up to four
weeks were also reported to be causing people to be evicted by the courts after failing to turn up for their court
date, because they had not received the letter.

People are also made homeless occasionally by means of a Closure Order being issued by the police. These
orders allow the police to remove tenants from a property and close the property down at short notice. These are
undertaken for cases of severe anti-social behaviour where the impact on the immediate neighbourhood is not
tolerable. The Closure Order lasts up to three months (extendable up to six months) and the landlord would
normally apply for an eviction order during this time. North Hertfordshire District Council homelessness service is
involved in the meeting that occurs when a Closure Order is about to take place, but has no powers to prevent the
order – their involvement is simply around ensuring that any homelessness duties to the household who are losing
their home are picked up. The police reported that they had issued 12 such Closure Orders in North Hertfordshire
in the last three years.

2.2     People approaching North Hertfordshire District Council for assistance
People can approach the Council for assistance if they are threatened with homelessness, or if they have already
become homeless. The Council has a duty first and foremost to provide advice and information about
homelessness and the prevention of homelessness to any person in the district, including those who are not
eligible for further homelessness services.

Between April 2014 and March 2018 there were 4,583 households who approached the council about
homelessness or housing advice. The table below sets out figures for the past four years, prior to the introduction
of the Homelessness Reduction Act. The council report that most of these were seeking general housing advice on
matters such as tenancy issues or housing options, whilst a smaller number were applications for homelessness
assistance (see Section 2.4). The Council also undertakes work to prevent homelessness, which prior to the
Homelessness Reduction Act was a non-statutory service (for further details see Section 2.3)”.

Table 3: Summary of approaches to North Hertfordshire District Council for support around homelessness or housing advice

                                                  2014/15       2015/16       2016/17       2017/18       Total
Total number of approaches                       1,435         1,102         945           1,101         4,583

Number of households assisted*3                  1,225         905           759           797           3,686

Total homelessness applications (decisions)      149           140           152           122           563

of which, households owed main duty              91            90            76            61            318

Households prevented from homelessness           237           136           164           133           670

Source: North Hertfordshire District Council

The chart below shows the age profile of the person who approached from these households:

3   Excludes repeat approaches by the same household within the one year

Figure 1: Age of applicants by number of contacts, March 2014 to September 2018

Source: North Hertfordshire District Council Homelessness Caseload data. See Annex Table A1

As can be seen, most approaches come from people across 18-60 age groups, with relatively few approaches from
those aged over 60. People aged 18-24 (a seven-year age band) and 25 to 34 were the most likely to approach the
Council homelessness service.

Data giving the first half of the postcode for applicants’ last settled address was provided and is summarised below

Figure 2: Location of last known address, people approaching NHDC April 2014 to September 2018

Source: North Hertfordshire District Council Homelessness Caseload data. See Annex Table A2

Nearly two thirds of the applicants came from the main towns in North Hertfordshire. Other common locations were
on the edge of the district such as Stevenage, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and other locations in Hertfordshire.
Postcode sectors are not contiguous with local authority boundaries, so some areas with a Stevenage postcode for
example, may be in North Hertfordshire. The total number of applicants and number of applicants per thousand
people from the four main towns is shown below:

Table 4: Number of applicants from four main towns in North Hertfordshire, April 2014 to September 2018

  Town                                     Number of applicants                  Applicants per thousand population

 Letchworth                                                            1,021                                   30.4
 Hitchin                                                                 989                                   29.6
 Royston                                                                 383                                   24.4
 Baldock                                                         260                                           25.2
Source: North Hertfordshire District Council Homelessness Caseload data

This suggests that Letchworth and Hitchin have somewhat higher rates of homeless applicants than Royston or

Repeat approaches
Three quarters of people who approached for help are recorded as having done so only once. There were 111
people who made contact more than four times and the highest number of recorded contacts was 10.

Table 5: Number of times households have contacted North Hertfordshire homelessness services March 2014 to September

 Number of contacts                                   Households                         Percentage
 One                                                                            3,082                             76%

 Two                                                                              672                             17%

 Three                                                                            185                              5%

 4 or more                                                                        111                              3%

                                                                                4,050                            100%

Source: North Hertfordshire District Council Homelessness Caseload data, October 2018

The age profile shows younger people (aged between 18 and 34) as slightly more likely to make multiple contacts,
though the difference is not large with 49% of the people who made multiple contacts in this age group, compared
to 41% for the single contact group.

Data since April 2018
The Homelessness Reduction Act was implemented in April 2018, so there were six months of data available for
this study. In order to compare this period to comparable previous periods, the following graphs and tables
compare the caseload for April to September 2018 with the same months of the year (April to September) in 2014,
2015, 2016 and 2017, in order to compare like with like and allow for any seasonal variation in homelessness

Table 6: Homelessness Caseload (cases opened) between April and September 2014 to 2018, North Hertfordshire

April to September                                          Caseload
2014                                                                                                                   836

2015                                                                                                                   534

2016                                                                                                                   485

2017                                                                                                                   545

2018                                                                                                                   871

Source: North Hertfordshire District Council Homelessness Caseload data, October 2018

In 2018 the caseload for homelessness in North Hertfordshire increased compared to the previous three years,
returning to a similar level as in 2014. This may indicate that the Homelessness Reduction Act has increased
numbers approaching for help. Council officers report that the Homelessness Reduction Act has increased the

number of people to whom they owe a homelessness prevention duty, increasing workload and diverting staff away
from helping people out of temporary accommodation.

Looking in more detail at the data from April 2018, of these 871 cases, 280 had an assessment under S189A of the
legislation. Of these, 113 were assessed as being threatened with homelessness (including households threatened
with a Section 21 possession notice) and owed a prevention duty. A further 131 were assessed as already
homeless and owed a relief duty, and 29 were not immediately threatened with homelessness. The remainder were
advice only cases.

More than half the cases in 2018 were triage cases. Prevention and relief cases were more common than
assessment, decisions and final duty combined, reflecting the focus that has been placed on homelessness
prevention across England in recent years. The table below shows the household types who were assisted in the
last six months by the type of support received:

Table 7: Household type by service received, April to September 2018

                           Triage/Advice          Assessed                Total                  Total
Single person              73%                    27%                     100%                   473
Couple no children         69%                    31%                     100%                   46
Family with 1 child        85%                    15%                     100%                   167
Family with 2 children     66%                    34%                     100%                   102
Family with 3 children     68%                    32%                     100%                   40
Other                      65%                    35%                     100%                   24
Not known                  71%                    29%                     100%                   19
Total                      63%                    37%                     100%                   871
Source: North Hertfordshire District Council Homelessness Caseload data. ‘Assessed’ includes ‘assessment’,
‘decision’, ‘final duty’, ‘prevention duty’ and ‘relief duty’. ‘Triaged/advice’ includes ‘triage’ and ‘prevention options
and advice’.

The data show that over half of all approaches were from single people, with most of the remainder being families
with one or two children. Families with one child were less likely than other groups to be assessed and more likely
to be helped via the triage or homelessness prevention services.

The table below shows the types of cases by ethnic group:

Table 8: Ethnicity by service received, April to September 2018

                            Triage/Advice           Assessed              Total                  Total
White                       67%                     33%                   100%                   610
All non-white               64%                     36%                   100%                   133
 Asian                      63%                     37%                   100%                   27
 Black                      68%                     32%                   100%                   62
 Mixed/Other                59%                     41%                   100%                   44
Not known                   96%                     4%                    100%                   128
Total                       71%                     29%                   100%                   871
Source: North Hertfordshire District Council Homelessness Caseload data. ‘Assessed’ includes ‘assessment’,
‘decision’, ‘final duty’, ‘prevention duty’ and ‘relief duty’. ‘Triaged/advice’ includes ‘triage’ and ‘prevention options
and advice’.

This data should be interpreted with caution, as the number of applicants from non-white ethnic groups is quite
small. Looking just at the distinction between white and non-white groups, the proportions who are assessed under
the legislation is very similar. Ethnicity is less well recorded for those assisted via triage services, suggesting this is
due to staff not consistently asking for this information, rather than customers refusing to provide it.

2.3      Homelessness prevention
The Council undertakes a variety of activities, typically in partnership with local agencies, to prevent homelessness
in the district. This includes mediation and tenancy/mortgage legal advice services, provided via Herts Young
Homeless and Citizens Advice; accommodation and support plans for young people and care leavers with
Hertfordshire County Council and support for the local night shelter in Hitchin, run by Stevenage Haven. More
details of these services are provided further in this report. The Council also arranges for Discretionary Housing
Payments and affordable credit union loans to be made available, where appropriate, to sustain or obtain tenancies
and provides general advice and assistance with securing or maintaining accommodation.

Prevention activity was brought under the statutory framework by the Homelessness Reduction Act and is provided
from NHDC offices in Letchworth, though satellite offices and home visits are also used to see people in other
locations, sometimes using the offices of a partner organisation such as probation or a housing association.

Recent trends
The chart below shows cases of prevention and relief recorded between 2008/9 and 2017/18:

Figure 3: Total cases of prevention and relief, 2008/09 to 2017/18

Source: MHCLG live tables

As can be seen, the number of households per thousand who received prevention and relief services in this period
that was prior to the Homelessness Reduction Act was similar in North Hertfordshire to the rest of the county in
2009 but has since fallen. This contrasts with England as a whole (excluding London4), where numbers increased
between 2009/10 and 2013/14. It is unclear from this data alone whether this reflects declining numbers of people
at risk of homelessness in North Hertfordshire or reducing success in preventing or relieving homelessness.
Interviews with agencies and analysis of rent and benefit levels (see Table 1) however suggest that it is becoming
more difficult to find accommodation in the private rented sector for low income households who are at risk of

The graph below summarises the prevention and relief activities:

4The analysis was undertaken for England as a whole excluding London because London has seen some
particularly unique challenges over this time period, so is a less useful comparator to North Hertfordshire.

Figure 4: Total cases of prevention and relief, North Hertfordshire 2008/09 to 2017/18

Source: MHCLG Live Tables

Between 2009 and 2018, 54% of the prevention and relief activity was focused on assisting households to obtain
alternative accommodation.

Homelessness prevention under the Homelessness Reduction Act
NHDC has used some of the additional funding that was made available at the start of the Homelessness
Reduction Act to increase in-house staff capacity in order to resource a more effective and extensive prevention
service. There is also a court desk worker within CAB (funded by historic homelessness grant) and an advice and
information worker for young people funded by the Council.

Other agencies were supportive of the increased emphasis on earlier intervention coming from the Homelessness
Reduction Act. CAB reported that people were now able to get advice from the council, as soon as they knew they
were at risk of losing their accommodation.

Local authority staff complete personal housing plans with actions that both applicants and council officers will take.
These are tailored to the needs of the individual, but includes actions such as:

•    contacting landlords;

•    checking that notices to quite are valid;

•    refer to local hostels in North Hertfordshire and elsewhere;

•    and referring to other agencies, such as drug and alcohol support; and
•     providing advice on benefits.

Customers are advised on where to look for housing and what they can do to prevent or relieve their

There was widely felt to be a shortage of accommodation for single homeless people across North Hertfordshire,
something that the council hopes to address through working with the voluntary sector and housing associations.

The table below shows the accommodation outcomes of those assisted under the legislation since April 2018:

Table 9: Accommodation outcomes for those where prevention or relief duty started and ended during April and September

Secured alternative accommodation                                                                                   19
Of which:
Social tenancy                                                                                                       1
    PRS                                                                                                              8
    Supported housing                                                                                                2
    Staying with family                                                                                              5
    Unknown                                                                                                          3
Secured existing accommodation                                                                                      18
Of which:
    Private rented sector                                                                                            6
    Social rented tenancy                                                                                            6
    Staying with family                                                                                              3
    Staying with friends                                                                                             1
    Supported housing                                                                                                1
    Other                                                                                                            1
Homeless                                                                                                            24
56 days or more expired and no further action                                                                        2
Withdrew application / applicant deceased                                                                            1
Contact lost                                                                                                         1
Total                                                                                                               65
North Hertfordshire District Council Caseload Data

A total of 37 households were known to have kept their current accommodation or secured alternative
accommodation. A further 24 households were known to be homeless at the end of the period. There were also a

further 29 households to whom the Council commenced a prevention or relief duty during this period, but where the
duty had not yet ended by the end of September (so outcomes were not yet known). Further analysis of this data
shows that most of the cases known to be homeless were when a relief duty had been accepted. Relieving
homelessness is necessarily harder (as the person no longer has suitable accommodation at the point when a
relief duty – rather than a prevention one – occurs). Around half of these were known to have a positive outcome,
with most of the rest unknown. This supports the belief that it is much better to try to prevent someone’s
homelessness before it arises, rather than try to relieve it after it has occurred. More support may be needed for
those who are already homeless to ensure follow up to establish whether homelessness was relieved or not.

Homeless prevention by other agencies
The Citizens’ Advice Bureau is based in Letchworth and also operate an outreach service in Hitchin and Royston
two days a week each. In addition, they run a court desk service in Stevenage supporting people who are in court
facing eviction. They report that these are a mixture of private and social tenants. Many people in this situation
have not previously sought support and have often failed to read or understand letters sent to them and to realise
what is going on. They need urgent advice to help them not to lose their home. The CAB worker is able to ask for a
postponement of the case, or a suspending possession which is sometimes successful in giving them time to pay
their rent and start making payments towards arrears, averting eviction.CAB report the group most likely to be
accessing help for the first time through their court desk to be older adults – aged over 30 and often without
children, suggesting that those with children or younger age groups may be accessing other services at an earlier

Preventing homelessness of people who have experienced domestic abuse
NHDC has used some of the additional funding that was made available at the start of the Homelessness
Reduction Act to contribute towards the running costs of domestic abuse services. The main service provider at
present is Stevenage Against Domestic Abuse, who work across Stevenage and North Hertfordshire. Around 90%
of their clients are women, mostly with children. The service tries if possible to prevent homelessness of those who
have experienced domestic abuse by helping them to remain safely in their home using a mixture of technology
(cameras, pendants with a tracker on them, etc) and legal action to prevent perpetrators gaining access to the
victim’s home. They also run a ‘safe space’, which is a property where victims of domestic abuse can go for up to
seven days to have the space needed to make a decision about their future.

2.4    Decisions made on the main housing duty
Local authorities are required to determine whether homeless applicants have a ‘priority need’ for homelessness
assistance. Those who are found to be in priority need and unintentionally homeless are owed a main (or ‘full’)
housing duty’ which obliges local authorities to secure suitable accommodation for them.

North Hertfordshire in context
Data collected by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) allows us to compare
recent trends in homelessness data between North Hertfordshire, the wider local area (taken to be the rest of
Hertfordshire), and England. This data is available up to March 2018. It therefore does not include data collected
after the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act.

Between 2009 and 2018 between 100 and 150 households per year were assessed under the homelessness
legislation in North Hertfordshire. The chart below summarises the number of people presenting as homeless in
North Hertfordshire between 2009 and 2018 and the outcome of decisions.

Figure 5: All decisions made under homelessness legislation in North Hertfordshire, 2008/09 to 2017/1

Source: MHCLG Live Tables

The percentage of households assessed under the legislation who are accepted as homeless and in priority need
has decreased from 69% in 2008/09 to 51% in 2016/17 and 2017/18. There has been a significant increase in the
percentage of households who are found to be homeless but not in priority need.

The chart below shows the numbers accepted as homeless and in priority need per 1,000 households for North
Hertfordshire, the rest of Hertfordshire and the rest of England excluding London.

Figure 6: Households accepted as being owed a full homelessness duty

Source: MHCLG Live Tables

The number of households per 1,000 households presenting as homeless and accepted as in priority need was
between 1.0 and 1.75 in North Hertfordshire over this time period, an average of 78 households per year.

The rates were lower than the rest of the county and England as a whole. Before 2011, North Hertfordshire was
similar to the rest of Hertfordshire, but the number of households accepted as homeless and in priority need
increased sharply elsewhere in the county between 2011 and 2013.

Data since April 2018
The Homelessness Reduction Act introduced additional prevention and relief duties which the Council will owe to
eligible applicants who are threatened with homelessness or who are homeless. Only once, and if, the relief duty
has ended unsuccessfully will a decision then be made on whether the applicant is owed a main housing duty. The
table below shows outcomes for main housing duty decisions since this change in legislation:

Table 10: Outcomes of decision on main housing duty assessments April to September 2018

Outcome of decision                                        Number
Not in priority need                                                                                        15
Priority need, intentionally homeless                                                                           2
Priority need, unintentionally homeless                                                                     28
Withdrew prior to assessment                                                                                    1
Total                                                                                                       46
North Hertfordshire District Council Caseload Data, October2018

There were 46 cases in April to September 2018 assessed to establish whether they were owed a main housing
duty. Of these, 28 (61%) were found to be unintentionally homeless and in priority need.

Just under three-quarters (74%) of the households assessed as in priority need were households that included
children or pregnant women. Almost all the rest (23%) were in priority need because they included people with
mental or physical health problems.

2.5     Temporary accommodation secured by North Hertfordshire District
North Hertfordshire in context
The graph below shows numbers in temporary accommodation over time, as before comparing North Hertfordshire
with the rest of the county and with England excluding London.

Figure 7: Numbers in temporary accommodation at year end, by year

Source: MHCLG live tables

North Hertfordshire has similar proportions of households in temporary accommodation compared to England as a
whole. The rates are significantly lower than those in the rest of Hertfordshire, however, where rates increased
significantly between 2011 and 2017. This suggests that North Hertfordshire is coping better than neighbouring
districts with coping with the increased pressure on homelessness services that has occurred during this time

Local provision
NHDC has a partnership agreement in place with Settle – the largest local housing association – to provide the
accommodation for people who are owed the full homeless duty or who are being assessed under this legislation
under Part 7 duties. This is in the form of four permanent hostels, one in each of the four towns, as shown below:

Table 11: Homeless Accommodation Provision in North Hertfordshire, September 2018

 PROVIDER             TYPE OF             LOCATION         BEDS/       TYPE OF                     CLIENT GROUP
 NAME                 SERVICE                              UNITS       ACCOMMODATION               (INC
                      PROVIDED                                         AND LENGTH OF               EXCLUSIONS)
                                                                       STAY AND STAFFING
 SETTLE,             Hostel               Letchworth        16 units   10 x 2 bed and 6 x 3 bed    Age 16+
 NEVILLE'S                                                             self-contained units with
 COURT                                                                 shared kitchens and

PROVIDER          TYPE OF              LOCATION        BEDS/        TYPE OF                      CLIENT GROUP
    NAME              SERVICE                              UNITS        ACCOMMODATION                (INC
                      PROVIDED                                          AND LENGTH OF                EXCLUSIONS)
                                                                        STAY AND STAFFING
    SETTLE, GROVE    Hostel               Hitchin            23 units   5 x 1 bed and 18 x 2 bed     Age 16+
    ROAD                                                                self-contained flats

    SETTLE,          Hostel               Baldock          10 rooms     1 x 4 bed house and 2 x 3    Age 16+, single
    WOODLAND WAY                                                        bed houses – for single      males
                                                                        males, shared facilities
    SETTLE,          Hostel               Royston            24 units   2 x 1 bed unit, 22 x 2 bed   Age 16+
    RIDGEWAY                                                            units. All self-contained

Source: North Hertfordshire District Council, October 2018

The accommodation in Baldock caters for single men, whilst the other three predominately take families. If Settle
have any vacant stock not suitable for reletting as social housing (for instance, because it is awaiting demolition),
this will be added to the temporary housing stock. Currently this includes six one-bedroom flats at Freeman’s
House, two emergency rooms at Thatcher’s End, Hitchin, and two additional units being used for temporary
accommodation in this manner.

Families typically stay in this accommodation up to nine to ten months, before moving on usually to social housing
(see below). Resettlement support is provided by Settle for up to two years after people leave the temporary

The council report that Settle take the majority of people referred to them, but sometimes refuse referrals if they
have very high needs, or if they are full. Settle confirmed that they did sometimes turn people down if they had high
support needs particularly if they were single people to be accommodated in shared housing, as they needed to
consider the risks and impact on other tenants, as well as the lack of onsite staff. In these cases, the council use
bed and breakfast accommodation on a temporary basis.

Single homeless people who are owed a full homelessness duty, are not always able to be accommodated within
Settle stock and have to be accommodated in hotels, due to a shortage of more suitable housing. In total, 30 single
people were accommodated in hotels in the year 2017-18.

The graph below shows the number of households in temporary accommodation at the end of each financial year
by accommodation type for North Hertfordshire. Prior to 2013 most households were in hostels, but the number
and proportion of households in hostels has decreased while the number of households housed in LA/HA stock has
increased. A small number of households were placed in Bed and Breakfast mostly in 2014-15 and 2015-165.

5The Homeless code of guidance for local authorities, issued by Government stipulates that bed and breakfast
accommodation should be used ‘only as a last resort’ and for a maximum of six weeks for families and should not
be used at all for 16 and 17 year olds.

Figure 8: Temporary Accommodation on 31 March by type, 2008/09 to 2017/18

Source: MHCLG live tables

The change in the composition of temporary accommodation from 2013-14 reflects a re-modelling of much of
Settle’s accommodation from hostel-style to self-contained housing. Overall, there was a fall in the numbers in
2012-13 (possibly reflecting the temporary accommodation being unavailable whilst it was re-modelled), followed
by a period when bed and breakfast accommodation started to be used more (2014-16). The Council appears to
have managed to largely avoid the use of bed and breakfast accommodation in the last two years and keep the
numbers in temporary accommodation to the level that can be largely accommodated within the Settle temporary
housing stock.

The table below shows the length of stay in temporary accommodation for those accommodated as of 30
September 2018:

Table 12: Households in temporary accommodation as of 30 September 2018, by length of time accommodated

Length of time waiting                            Number of households
0-8 weeks                                                                                       17
8-16 weeks                                                                                        8
16-24 weeks                                                                                     21
24-32 weeks                                                                                       6
32-40 weeks                                                                                       9
Over 40 weeks                                                                                   25
Total                                                                                           86
Source: North Hertfordshire District Council, October 2018.

The average length of stay for households in temporary accommodation as of 30 September 2018 was 39 weeks,
with a median time of 23 weeks.

2.6     Other temporary accommodation for homeless people
The Council only has a duty to secure accommodation for households who are found to be unintentionally
homeless and in priority need and therefore owed the main housing duty. Council officers reported that they would
therefore not offer other households any accommodation directly, instead working with them to produce a personal
housing plan as required under the Homelessness Reduction Act.

There are voluntary sector agencies who provide accommodation for people who are homeless, but not owed a full
homelessness duty by the local authority. The table below lists the main providers of accommodation for homeless
people in North Hertfordshire:

Table 13: Homeless Accommodation Provision in North Hertfordshire, September 2018

 PROVIDER           TYPE OF             LOCATION      BEDS     TYPE OF              REFERRAL            CLIENT GROUP
 NAME               SERVICE                                    ACCOMMODATI          PROCESS             (INC
                    PROVIDED                                   ON AND                                   EXCLUSIONS)
                                                               LENGTH OF
                                                               STAY AND
 ALDWYCK           Accommodation        Hitchin          18   Two blocks and        Self, or referral   18 plus, vulnerable,
 HOUSING                                                      10 units dispersed    through             with mental health
 ASSOCIATION,                                                 across Hitchin,       Community           diagnosis. No drug
 ALDWYCK                                                      Letchworth,           Mental Health       users, no alcohol
 MENTAL                                                       Baldock.              Team, NH            dependency unless
                                                                                    Council, Settle     being treated.
                                                                                    (from whom they     General risk
 HERTS                                                                              rent the            assessment, but no
                                                                                    properties)         a priori exclusions
                                                                                                        for convictions etc
 ALDWYCK           Accommodation        Hitchin and      21   Rooms and fully       Accept referrals    16-25. Excludes
 HOUSING           Also support         Baldock               furnished flats.      from any            arsonists, sex
 ASSOCIATION,      services for                               Length of stay -      agency. Most        offenders
 N HERTS           living skills,                             six months to two     referrals via
 YOUNG             budgeting,                                 years. Staff cover    North
                   dealing with                               Monday to Friday      Hertfordshire
                   conflict, tenancy,                         9 to 5                District Council
 SERVICE           access to EET                                                    Housing Needs
 HELPING           Emergency            Hitchin          17   Four dormitories.     Referrals from      18 plus. Male only.
 HERTS             accommodation,                             Eight weeks to six    local council and   Focus on drug &
 HOMELESS          Housing related                            months. 24 hour       other statutory     alcohol users,
 (PREVIOUSLY       support, advice,                           staff cover           agencies            people with learning
 THE NORTH         referrals to                                                     including           difficulties, mental
                   agencies for                                                     probation           health problems.
                   treatment                                                                            Must be eligible for
 SANCTUARY).                                                                                            benefits. No
 RUN BY                                                                                                 arsonists, recently
 STEVENAGE                                                                                              convicted rapists, or
 HAVEN                                                                                                  ex-residents who
                                                                                                        have previously
                                                                                                        been excluded
 HERTS YOUNG       Crisis               Various           5   Short-term stays      Referral through    Age 16-17 only
 HOMELESS          accommodation                              at home of a          youth homeless
                   (‘Crash-pad’)                              volunteer for up to   hub, local
                                                              6 weeks               council,
                                                                                    Targeted Youth
                                                                                    Support, or
 HERTS YOUNG       Crisis               Various           4   Short-term stays      Referral through    Age 18-24
 HOMELESS          accommodation                              at home of a          18+ Hub, local
 (HYH),            (‘Nightstop’)                              volunteer. Max        council,
 NIGHTSTOP                                                    stay is 28 nights.    Targeted Youth
                                                              Referrals             Support, or
                                                              accepted Mon-Fri      another
                                                              9.30 to 13.30         professional
Source: North Hertfordshire District Council, October 2018

The table shows 65 bed spaces available for homeless people who are not owed a full homelessness duty by the
local authority in North Hertfordshire as at September 2018, though much of this is restricted to specific client
groups and not all are solely for North Hertfordshire residents. Some supported accommodation specifically for
care leavers is not included in this table.

There are also the following accommodation providers outside of North Hertfordshire but nearby, mostly in

Table 14: Homeless accommodation provision outside North Hertfordshire, September 2018

 PROVIDER          TYPE OF          LOCATION        BEDS     TYPE OF                  REFERRAL           CLIENT GROUP
 NAME              SERVICE                                   ACCOMMODATION            PROCESS
                   PROVIDED                                  AND MAXIMUM
                                                             LENGTH OF STAY
 STEVENAGE        Emergency         Stevenage           40   Single, en-suite         Referrals by       18 plus, single
 HAVEN,           hostel                                     rooms                    local authority,   people (male and
 EMERGENCY        (Stevenage)                                                         agencies           female). No
 HOSTEL                                                                               including          exclusions
 (STEVENAGE)                                                                          health service
                                                                                      services, other
                                                                                      sector orgs
 STEVENAGE        Support           Stevenage,           3   Flat. Maximum stay is    Self referral or   Focus on victims
 AGAINST          services and      North                    7 nights                 via a range of     of domestic abuse
 DOMESTIC         crisis            Hertfordshire                                     agencies
 ABUSE (SAVE      accommodation
 SAFER            Accommodation     West and           110   Self-contained flats,    Via agencies       Focused on
 PLACES           . Also support    mid Essex,               large and small          working with       women and
                  services for      East                     communal buildings       victims of         children who are
                  living skills,    Hertfordshire                                     domestic           victims of
                  budgeting,                                                          abuse              domestic abuse
                  dealing with
                  tenancy, access
                  to EET
 ONE YMCA         Hostel            Welwyn             125   Private rooms. Usual     Self, agency or    18 plus. No sex
 WELWYN                             Garden City              length of stay is 18     council referral   offenders. Violent
 GARDEN CITY                                                 months with                                 offenders and
 HOSTEL                                                      maximum of two                              arsonists are risk
                                                             years. Reception staff                      assessed, but
                                                             from 8 am to 10 pm,                         most often
                                                             and night staff                             refused. Priority
                                                             overnight.                                  given to those
                                                                                                         with a local
                                                                                                         connection to
Source: North Hertfordshire District Council, October 2018

Stevenage Haven run two hostels – one in Stevenage and one in North Hertfordshire, catering for single homeless
people, most of whom are not owed a full homelessness duty. The North Hertfordshire hostel caters for 18 clients

and is in Hitchin. It is for men only because it is dormitory style accommodation considered unsuitable for mixed
sex sharing. Stevenage Haven consider this to be outdated accommodation, insufficient and not fully meeting
needs because it can’t take women. As a result, some people from North Hertfordshire are referred to the hostel in
Stevenage currently.

It was acknowledged that helping people produce a personal housing plan may or may not result in
accommodation being accessed. Agencies shared this concern – that providing personal housing plans did not
actually address the lack of availability of housing accessible to low income people. Instead they feared that writing
down an action plan to contact a range of agencies to find housing is of little use when none of these agencies has
the capacity to help the people who contact them.

Young people and care leavers
Teenagers aged 16 and 17 are the responsibility primarily of social services. NHDC have joint arrangements with
Children’s Services (a county-wide service) and also with Herts Young Homeless to support 16 and 17-year olds
who are homeless or at risk of homelessness (and not living within a family group with their parents). Children’s
Services reported a strong relationship with NHDC housing team and felt that systems were in place which
generally enabled each agency to understand where its responsibilities lay. The main voluntary sector agency
working with young people (Herts Young Homeless) concurred that across Hertfordshire the joint working protocols
between housing and other agencies were working well.

Herts Young Homeless run a ‘hub’ for homeless 16-17 year olds. This is a virtual service (rather than a physical
hub), whereby homeless 16-17 year olds are directed to Herts Young Homeless for support. Herts Young
Homeless assess both the young person and their family, seeking to keep them in the parental home wherever
possible. When this is not appropriate, they offer a ‘crashpad’ facility. This comprises five bedspaces provided by
volunteer hosts across the whole of Hertfordshire, where young people can stay for up to three weeks (extendable
to six weeks if necessary), until they are able either to return home or move to a hostel. The hosts provide food and
the commit to being in at all times when the young person is there (meaning the young person may need to be out
during the daytime when the host is at work).

For 18 to 24-year olds, Herts Young Homeless run a ‘nightstop’ service accommodating them in homes provided
by volunteer hosts along very similar lines to the crash pad facility. The hosts are only paid expenses, but the
service is currently being scaled back from 12 bed spaces to four, due to a lack of funding for the core staff
member needed to run the service and provide on-call back up to the hosts. Funding post-April 2019 is currently
uncertain. Due to the fluctuating demand for nightstop services, it was felt to work better on a county-wide basis.
Funding it from local authority resources would therefore require joint working between district councils.

Stevenage Haven also work many young people who stay at their hostels. They too look to facilitate a move back
to the family home where this is practical.

Herts Young Homeless undertake some outreach work with schools working with young people on how to resolve
conflict to give them to tools to avoid homelessness. They also undertake mediation work with children and
teenagers from the age of 10 up, helping them to stay in their family homes.

Herts Young Homeless felt that young people are best accommodated in the family home wherever possible, but
that nightstop/crashpad facilities or an independent tenancy with floating support were better options than
nightshelter accommodation for this age group, as they were vulnerable to extortion for money or being easily led
by drug addicts in a shared environment such as a nightshelter.

Aldwick Housing Association also provides supported housing in the district, often used for care leavers needing an
interim step towards independent living.

Accommodation for those who have fled domestic abuse
For those who are unable to remain in their home, there is refuge provision in Stevenage (for women) or
Bedfordshire (for men) though none in North Hertfordshire. Stevenage Against Domestic Abuse also work with
victims to help them access a new social tenancy. They report this to be easier in Stevenage than in North
Hertfordshire, because Stevenage council own their own housing stock so have more flexibility in how to allocate it.

People who are at the highest risk of violence are helped instead by Safer Places who provide a range of services
for adults and children affected by domestic abuse across Hertfordshire and neighbouring counties.

Ex offenders, probationers and those leaving custody
The probation service report that homelessness is a significant issue for ex-offenders and that this makes it hard
for them to work with them in addressing their offending – not least because they if they have no stable address the
probation service do not know where they are. The probation service felt that NHDC was not as strong as councils
in some other areas in which they operated at working with ex-offenders.

People coming out of prison can stay in a probation hostel (approved accommodation) for up to 12 weeks, but after
that the probation service has no accommodation itself and is unable to find people housing. Probation hostels are
intended to be used in order to help the probation service manage the risks posed by offenders, but in practice
were sometimes used by people who did not need this level of supervision and would be better off in other
accommodation. The probation service refers homeless ex-offenders to the local authority, but reported that they
are not usually entitled to a main homelessness duty if they are not in priority need, or if they are deemed to be
intentionally homeless by having committed the offence that led to them being imprisoned, and hence losing their
accommodation. The probation service felt that they were unable to help their clients with housing problems
themselves because they didn’t have any housing, and that this was therefore the council housing department’s
responsibility. There are no probation hostels in Hertfordshire, so hostels in Cambridgeshire or Bedfordshire would
be used instead. This was reported to sometimes lead to NHDC refusing to accept homeless applicants who had
been housed out of district, even when they had been from North Hertfordshire originally and were only living out of
the area because they had been placed there. Difficulties also arose with offenders who were prevented by the
terms of their licence from returning to an area where they posed a risk, but who found the local authority where
they ended up living would not accept homeless duties towards them because of a lack of local connection.

Probationers were also reported to fail to complete the forms needed to seek help from NHDC with their housing,
finding it easier instead to sofa-surf. The probation service felt that the risks they posed would be easier to manage
if they were in settled accommodation instead.

Those who have committed arson were a particularly difficult group to house, as landlords’ insurance often barred
them from housing such tenants. This led them to apply for housing independently without declaring their
convictions, making it harder for the probation service to manage the risks they posed. Similar issues arose with
sex offenders who had committed offences against children, who could be very hard to house and pose the
greatest risk when the probation service was unable to keep track of them.

2.7     Wider support services for homeless people in North Hertfordshire
People who have been homeless often need wider support to maintain a tenancy. Housing advice can also help
prevent future homelessness. The table below lists other providers of services to homeless people and those at
risk of homelessness in North Hertfordshire:

Table 15: Other services for people at risk of homelessness in North Hertfordshire, September 2018

PROVIDER            NAME OF        TYPE OF               LOCATION        STAFF       REFERRAL           CLIENT          COVERAGE
NAME                SERVICE/       SERVICE                               COVER       PROCESS            GROUP
                    FACILITY       PROVIDED
HERTS YOUNG        Mediation      Family mediation       Hatfield                                       10-24, and      Hertfordshire
HOMELESS                          support                                                               parents/
(HYH)                                                                                                   carers
HERTS YOUNG        18+ Hub        One-off advice re:     Hatfield        0930-       Self or            18-24           Hertfordshire
HOMELESS                          housing, renting,                      1330        professional
(HYH), AND                        money, benefits.                                   referral for
ALDWYCK                           Also, floating                                     advice.
                                  support for priority                               Professional
                                  groups                                             for floating
HYH                Young          Floating support       Letchworth                   Social            18-24 care      North
                   People's                                                          services or        leavers, or     Hertfordshire
                   Caseworker                                                        agency             moving from
HYH                Floating       Floating support       Letchworth                                     18-60 year      Letchworth
                   support                                                                              olds from
HYH (WITH          Complex        Support for those      Hertfordshire                                  With            Hertfordshire
MIND AND           needs team     with complex                                                          complex
TURNING                           needs                                                                 needs
STEVENAGE          Stevenage      Floating support       North           20 hours                       18 plus         North
HAVEN              Haven          team                   Hertfordshire   per week                                       Hertfordshire
STEVENAGE          Connect        Rough Sleeper          Stevenage,      24-hour     Call helpline      18 plus         Stevenage,
HAVEN, WITH                       Outreach Service       Hitchin         telephon                                       North Herts
RESOLVE AND                                                              e support
RESOLVE            Hitchin        Information,           Hitchin         Mon-Fri,    self or referral   18 plus, drug   North Herts
                   Outreach       support, and                           9-5                            and alcohol     East Herts
                   Officer        referral services                                                     recovery
CITIZENS           Court Desk     Legal advice and       Stevenage       Mon-Fri,    Self or agency     All             National
ADVICE NORTH       Project        help to tenants        Magistrate's    10-4                                           organisation
HERTFORDSHIR                      facing eviction        Court
CITIZENS                          Drop-in advice         Letchworth      Mon-Fri,    Self or agency     All             National
ADVICE NORTH                      centre (including      Garden City     10-4                                           organisation
HERTS (CAB)                       housing advice),
                                  and helpline
LEGAL AID          Housing        Emergency advice       National        during      Self or agency     All             National
AGENCY (LAA)       Possession     at court hearings      service         court                                          service
                   Court Duty                                            sessions
Source: North Hertfordshire District Council, October 2018
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