Chelmsford City Council and ourselves are proud to receive a ‘highly commended’ in the Housing Essex Excellence Award for work which has helped some of Chelmsford's most vulnerable households.
The organisations were shortlisted alongside five other entries in the Partnership category of the annual awards, which seek the very best housing provision in the county.
The award comes after the two organisations began to work much more closely together to improve outcomes for tenants.
In 2017, there were over 360 families in temporary accommodation in Chelmsford, a third of which were in properties owned or leased by the Council. Need was growing; however, the Council transferred most of its stock to housing associations over 15 years ago and so had very little in-house capacity for the everyday management of these tenancies.
Late that year, the Council and us formed an agreement for managing over 150 temporary homes that they owned or leased. The two organisations shared the responsibilities. While the Council allocated homes to people and collected the rent, we deal with day-to-day housing management issues such as repairs and tenancy support.
Statistics gathered by the government in 2018 show that 47% of households in temporary accommodation had support needs, such as a history of mental or physical health problems, domestic abuse, previous rough sleeping, alcohol or drug dependency or repeated homelessness in the past.
The two teams came together as one, each keen to learn from the other to make life easier for some of the most vulnerable households in Chelmsford.
Within 12 months:
- The average debt per household reduced from £841 to £453;
- £164,000 in former tenant arrears was collected;
- The total arrears reduced from £258,000 to £127,000;
- There was only one case of antisocial behaviour requiring formal action.
Joined-up working also presented a perfect opportunity to help families to improve their long-term prospects. Using our services, more than 40 households have been helped to access education, from maths and English to job applications and child wellbeing.
Officers from both teams have worked to ensure that prospective tenants are now helped to prepare for independent living, drastically reducing the number of evictions. More than 70 families have successfully moved on from temporary accommodation to secure, permanent tenancies with no risk of homelessness.
A spokesperson for Chelmsford City Council said, “To move onwards in life, you need a stable base from which to start. It is immensely difficult for many of the most vulnerable people in our society to reach a place of stability and security when they may be struggling just to keep afloat. The aim of all temporary accommodation must be to help people into permanent accommodation and to ensure that they have the skills needed to stay there. IWe are very proud that Chelmsford is making big steps to provide a housing service which can make a real difference and I look forward to seeing what else can be done to help.”
Kate Franklin, our Chief Operating Officer, said: “This initiative is a really constructive approach to managing vulnerable households and provides a starting point for them to make the transition from homelessness to independent living. CHP’s mission is to transform lives and the partnership enables them to access our support such as regular contact and a repairs service as well as education and employment opportunities giving them the skills and foundations to manage a home. I’m delighted we were highly commended in the category.”
Photo left to right: Debbie Willson, Community Hub Manager; Michael Jenner, Strategic Land Promoter; Paul Gayler, Strategic Housing Manager.