HomePoint and social housing – how does it work?

In this month’s blog, we talk to Laura Fisher, Housing Services Manager at Shropshire Council, about HomePoint.

Laura is responsible for the delivery of housing services within the council, a role that extends across homelessness, temporary accommodation and HomePoint (the social housing waiting list), as well as property conditions (owner occupiers) and Disabled Facilities Grants.

Here, Laura explains more about the services available to help Shropshire’s residents find a suitable home.

 

What is HomePoint and how does it work?

HomePoint is the housing needs register which allows landlords to allocate social housing across Shropshire.

There are 12 housing providers who advertise vacant stock on the HomePoint website, and our team work with those on the register to assess their housing needs.

Although the landlords are responsible for the allocation of their own stock, we work closely with them too.

You can register for HomePoint through our website, or collect a paper copy from one of our Customer Service points. The paper copy is 28 pages long so it’s much quicker to complete it online, as it automatically cancels any pages you don’t need to fill in.

The team can help you to apply over the phone, looking at your personal details, your current property and how suitable it is for your needs. We can also refer you to a support worker who can assist with the completion of your application.

 

What type of housing needs does HomePoint cover?

There are four levels of need on the HomePoint Register. Bronze covers those who want to move but have no immediate housing need, while silver and gold are higher priority households with a clear housing need.

Priority covers those with the most significant and urgent housing need, such as those facing homelessness or with medical needs.

At any given time, there are around 5,000 people across Shropshire on HomePoint, and 2,500 of those are in bronze banding.

People often assume that those in bronze banding won’t be rehoused because they’re a lower priority, but we actually re-house people in this category on a regular basis.

The time it takes to find a suitable property often depends on the applicant.

If they’re looking for a particular house in a particular village, it’ll take longer, but if they’re happy with any property across Shropshire with a certain number of bedrooms, the process is much quicker.

 

Who’s eligible to apply for the HomePoint Register? 

There’s a common perception that HomePoint is just for people who receive benefits. Most people don’t realise that almost anyone can put themselves on the register.

If you’re an individual or couple who’s working full time, for example – or an older couple who already own a property but are looking to move somewhere with more support – there are lots of aspects of that we can help with too.

We can advertise private rental properties on HomePoint, and we’d like to do more of that – in fact, we’d encourage anyone looking for rented accommodation in Shropshire to apply for HomePoint.

 

What kind of things might leave someone without a home?

There are lots of factors, but it’s often a symptom of wider societal issues.

The increase in families in rental arrears due to the changes in Universal Tax Credits and benefits, a greater reliance on food banks and private landlords being less understanding than social landlords can all contribute.

Another factor is our county’s demographics. In Shropshire, we have a high number of older residents, and many of the county’s younger people go off to university and go into jobs elsewhere, which all impacts on the number of jobs available, which in turn influences these issues.

We usually find out about someone facing homelessness through the HomePoint register or support agencies who are already in contact with them, but it might be through the individual themselves.

Some people have a few months’ notice before they’re required to leave a property; others have less than 24 hours – and this dictates the level of support they receive at the time.

Anyone facing homelessness is allocated a Housing Options Officer who’ll provide advice and support throughout the whole process.

 

How does your team support those who are homeless? 

At our recent rough sleeper count, we had 16 rough sleepers in Shropshire.

Rough sleeping, however, is just the ‘visible’ side of homelessness. You might see someone in a sleeping bag and assume that’s what homelessness is, but it’s just one part of it.

We’ve recently set up a Rough Sleeper Team and Dedicated Outreach Workers who go out daily to provide whatever support is needed, while here at the Council, we have a dedicated team who do initial assessments over the phone to determine that person’s situation and needs.

The Homelessness Reduction Act, which came into operation in 2018, saw the biggest change in legislation for the past 40 years – and it’s significantly changed the way we work with people facing homelessness. For instance, we now have a duty of care to anyone facing any type of housing need.

For some, that may just be providing advice and support on the options available to them.

For others – such as those who suffer from poor physical or mental health, women who are pregnant and those fleeing domestic violence – we’ll have a greater duty of care which includes providing emergency and long-term accommodation as it’s needed.

 

What’s your overall mission as a team and as a Council?

The current Conservative government has plans for halving rough sleeping by 2022 and ending it by 2027, which is a goal we share.

I believe that’s achievable, and ultimately, we want to eliminate homelessness altogether across Shropshire as soon as possible.

We’re never going to stop families, couples or individuals from being evicted from their home, or stop the growing need for housing itself, but our aim is to make sure the journey people go through to finding the right accommodation is as easy and stress-free as possible.

Everybody deserves a home, it’s as simple as that. And we’re here to make sure that happens.

If you’re homeless now or think you will be within the next 56 days, please contact our Housing Options Team immediately. Call us on 0345 6789 005 or visit our website for further information.