Councils pledge further help to prevent homelessness

More than 1,500 households at risk of homelessness have been helped to keep a roof over their heads by Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils since 2019

More than 1,500 households at risk of homelessness have been helped to keep a roof over their heads by Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils since 2019, a report to go before both councils later this month reveals.

The figures form part of a report going before councillors at meeting next week – spelling out how the councils intend to further step up their commitment to prevent homelessness and rough sleeping across the districts as the nationwide cost-of-living crisis continues to take its toll.

The councils’ joint homelessness reduction and rough sleeping strategy has been reviewed to ensure it reflects the current challenges facing the districts.  The councils’ housing solutions service is facing increasing demand, not only from tenants struggling to pay the bills, but also those looking for help because their private landlords is selling up, putting a further squeeze on available housing in the area.

The report shows how during 2022/23 the team received 627 homeless applications in Babergh, compared to 581 in 2021/22, while in Mid Suffolk, the number of applications rose to 588 compared to 510.  Not all applications result in council help being required, but each requires further investigation and urgent support for those most in need.  

In fact, between April 2019 and March 2023, the councils stepped to urgently rehouse 264 households in Babergh and 247 in Mid Suffolk who would otherwise have found themselves on the street.

The figures also show that in addition to supporting those requiring urgent help, the councils are working hard behind the scenes to support residents before they reach crisis point.  Between April 2019 and March 2023 the team prevented homelessness in over 579 cases in Babergh and 553 in Mid Suffolk, with the councils’ early intervention team offering advice and practical help to tackle financial issues, and supporting those affected by domestic abuse.

Although rough sleeping less of an issue for the rural districts, the strategy describes how contact is currently made with anyone found to be sleeping on the streets within 24 hours of a referral being received with outreach support, and the specialist bedspaces and wrap-around services provided to help them get back into accommodation and work.  Since April 2020, 41 former rough sleepers in Babergh have secured long-term accommodation and 37 in Mid Suffolk.

The strategy commits to further work in these areas, as well as providing further support to those in temporary accommodation – particularly children; pledges further work to help those facing financial hardship as part of the councils’ cost-of-living action plan; and the expansion of Central Suffolk Lettings – the council’s trailblazing lettings service.

By providing landlords with a free lettings service and guaranteed rent payments, the councils have opened up the private rented sector to those in need and reduced demands on temporary accommodation or the need to use B&Bs or hostels.  Since its launch in 2020, a rented property through Central Suffolk Lettings has provided a new home for a household who would otherwise have found themselves homeless on 124 occasions in Babergh, and 108 times in Mid Suffolk.

Babergh District Council cabinet member for housing, Cllr Jessie Carter said: “There are no quick fixes to resolving issues around homelessness – but this strategy demonstrates our commitment to preventing homelessness and rough sleeping wherever possible, and shows how we are taking a person-centred and innovative approach to finding solutions for those who need us most.”
Cllr Richard Winch, cabinet member for housing and property in Mid Suffolk, said: “We want our service to go well beyond the minimum required by legislation.  I am proud to say that we provide a bespoke homelessness service which considers the needs and complexities of each individual, and which focuses on early intervention – working with residents before they find themselves in crisis.”

The strategy, which was developed in consultation with sector partners, town and parish councils and also includes feedback from a six-week public consultation at the end of last year, will now be considered by councillors at Babergh District Council’s meetings on Tuesday 19 March, and Mid Suffolk District Council on Wednesday 20 March.

A Member of the Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils Outreach team investing the report of a rough sleeper.