East Cambridgeshire District Council’s Housing and Community Advice Service is one of a small number of local authorities to have achieved the top ‘gold’ standard of service recognised by the National Practitioner Support Service (NPSS).
The team have been working towards gold standard for three years. They achieved bronze accreditation in 2017 and then progressed to silver status in 2019.
The NPSS Gold Standard challenge is a local authority sector led peer-review scheme designed to help local authorities deliver more cost-effective homelessness prevention services. The award criteria, which sets the context for local authorities and their partners, is rooted to ten local challenges. Challenges include adopting a corporate commitment to prevent homelessness which has buy in across all local authority services and to actively engage in preventing mortgage repossessions.
Councillor David Ambrose Smith, chairman of the Operational Services Committee, said:
“This is an astounding achievement for the team which I have the pleasure of working with on a regular basis as chairman.
“This accolade has only been given to a few councils nationwide and is testament to the time and effort which goes into the service day in, day out, to ensure it is of the highest standard for our residents.
“I would like to share my personal congratulations to all officers that have worked tirelessly to make our Housing and Community Service the best it can be.”
Councillor Anna Bailey, leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council, said:
“This recognition of the dedicated, hard work of our housing team over a long period of time is richly deserved.
“I am incredibly proud of them for all they have done and all they continue to do, including throughout the pandemic where they have stepped up yet again.
“For residents, particularly those going through a difficult time in their lives, this means they have the support of a fantastic housing team to help them maintain their accommodation and deal with their underlying issues to get their lives back on track.”
This accreditation encapsulates years of progress to rapidly tackle the district’s homelessness, but also create preventative measures to mitigate issues before they escalate.
In 2012, the region’s three homeless hostels were full to bursting, there were 200 households considered to be in desperate need and 30 households in bed and breakfast accommodation, costing the local authority £750,000 a year.
But months after implementing a new strategy, the Council’s dedicated team had emptied one of the hostels, reduced the priority list to single figures, slashed the cost of B&B placements to zero and handed a £250,000 saving back to the council.
Eight years after the new strategy was introduced, the housing department is preventing and relieving 350 households from becoming homeless every year.
The department has also gone from spending £1 million a year on B&B provision to having a spend of zero.
The team have continued to build on this momentum with three established community hubs in the district in Ely, Littleport and Stretham. The hubs aim to provide regular access to support at an early stage to prevent homelessness occurring.
Most recently, the Housing and Community Advice Service have expanded their provision to also support residents with community issues relating to debt, work and pensions and childcare and parenting.
They are currently the only place in East Anglia providing EUSS Settled Status Scheme applications free of charge.
Jo Brooks, Operations Director for East Cambridgeshire District Council, said:
“Eight years ago, the council’s housing service was continuously having to react to the high demand of homelessness issues as they happened. Since then, the team have implemented changes which has not only helped those in need but put prevention at the core of everything they do.
“What is more, they have also branched out to offer additional services to the community and this has further expanded due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For such a small team, the transformation of Housing and Community Support Service has been astounding and I am extremely proud of everything they have achieved.”
Press release from East Cambridgeshire District Council