West Suffolk councils take on extra staff to combat homelessness

Edmundsbury borough and Forest Heath district councils are to recruit extra staff to help fight homelessness in response to rising numbers as well as major changes to legislation and benefits.

The district councils plan to take on 6.8 full-time equivalent posts in their housing options and homelessness team.

The news comes ahead of the Homelessness Reduction Act which comes into force early next year and brings a number of changes, which includes requiring councils to start assessing someone at risk of being made homeless 56 days before losing their home instead of the 28 required currently.

The extra staff are needed to offer advice and prevention, landlord liaison, help with debt and money management as well as finding accommodation. The increase in staff has been approved by Forest Heath’s cabinet and the plans will go before St Edmundsbury’s cabinet on Wednesday, May 31.

According to papers presented to the cabinet, the number of people accepted as homeless in west Suffolk increased from 328 in 2015 to 346 in 2016. There was also an increase in reported rough sleepers from 11 in 2015 to 21 in 2016. There have been 10 so far this year as of March. Nationally the number of those accepted as homeless in the past year has increased by 10 per cent with a 30 per cent rise in rough sleeping.

A council spokesman added: “Recognising some of the changes and challenges ahead, we know that we must grow our housing options and homelessness team so that we are best placed to continue to help people.”

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