Aberdeenshire Council has launched a new homelessness prevention service within its housing and social work service and aims to reduce homeless presentations to the authority by up to 25% by 2014/15.
The team of seven officers, based throughout Aberdeenshire, will focus on early intervention and provide the first point of contact for individuals or families experiencing difficulties in their housing situation.
The service is available for anyone with housing difficulties and threatened with homelessness including those in private rented housing, social housing, those with a mortgage as well as those with more complex housing needs.
The council approved an ‘Invest to Save’ proposal earlier this year to establish the team which is forecast to achieve savings of £300,000 in three years.
The prevention officers will work alongside colleagues from other housing teams to identify support and services which may be accessed.
Chair of Aberdeenshire Council’s social work and housing committee ,Councillor Karen Clark, said: “The council can now act early and provide more advice and information to people at risk of becoming homeless.
“The additional resources being made available will direct support to where it is needed the most and deal with the causes rather than treat the results of homelessness.
“We know that homelessness is caused by things like family disputes and the team will be able to engage with people to resolve issues and play a more preventative rather than reactive role.”
Vice-chair Councillor Alisan Norrie added: “Early intervention is vital if the council is to meet its targets for addressing homelessness.
“Research demonstrates that housing problems do not suddenly arise but instead they can develop over a period of time and this means that by acting early resolutions can be achieved.”
Statistics show that from 2008 to 2011, homelessness presentations in Aberdeenshire have increased by 14% against the national Scottish trend of a 4% reduction.
Demographic and economic factors in Aberdeenshire have influenced the number of homeless applications the authority receives.
Currently, 40% of homelessness applications are received from the 16 to 25 age group and the most common cause is household disputes.
The authority’s new team will adopt a range of prevention measures including a mediation service, provision of advice and housing support to vulnerable people in social or private housing as well as embedding homelessness in the school curriculum.
The prevention team will also work alongside partner agencies and work to meet some of the outcomes within the council’s Local Housing Strategy.
If you think you could benefit from assistance from the Homelessness Prevention Service, details can be found at www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/housing/offices/