This year we are excited to be piloting the Landlord Incentive Scheme in partnership with Cornwall Council after it was awarded £625,000 from the government’s Rough Sleeper Initiative. Cornwall Council Portfolio Holder for Homes Andrew Mitchell said, “Tackling rough sleeping is a complex issue”, and he has credited the council’s multi-agency approach for the positive changes that have been seen to date. We are glad that the council decided to involve us in this initiative, and hope that the same multi-agency approach in this scheme will further the council’s progress in tackling homelessness.
The scheme was launched in February and is underpinned by the basic principle that everyone has a right to a home. For those who have experienced homelessness, sustaining a tenancy can be incredibly difficult, and the solution is unfortunately not as simple as just moving them on to the private rented sector and suspending all support. The revolving door of homelessness is a phenomenon that affects many people, with figures from Shelter revealing that over half of homeless families surveyed had already experienced at least one period of homelessness in their lives. As well as this, eviction from a private tenancy was named as the biggest cause for the rise in homelessness since 2011, revealing that more needs to be done to help people sustain a tenancy.
A lot of people who experience homelessness were never given the basic skills which many of us rely on such as managing a budget, property maintenance and general health and safety. This is a real barrier to the longevity of a tenancy, as trying to juggle all of these new skills with no support or training is often overwhelming and can cause problems that lead to the termination of the tenancy. Another issue to contend with is the stigma that comes with supported accommodation and being in receipt of benefits which can put off many landlords from even considering the application. An investigation of over ten thousand property listings revealed that just two percent of these were open to people on benefits. It is with these barriers in mind that the Landlord Incentive Scheme was created. The scheme brings together the council, supported accommodation providers and landlords to create a solution that is beneficial for everyone, and that will last.
The scheme is made up of three main aspects: pre-tenancy training, ongoing support, and financial stability for landlords. The pre-tenancy training is an official NOCN Level One qualification which provides applicants with tailored instruction in preparing for, and more importantly, retaining a tenancy. It is recognised by the National Landlords Association, and therefore not only provides the individuals with the knowledge and skills to be a good tenant, but it allows them to demonstrate this to prospective landlords. Wayne Drew from Cornwall Housing believes that the training is what will make the scheme successful. “The Pre-Tenancy Qualification is one of the biggest parts of this, it gives tenants the skills that they need, but also opens the door to work based training.” Every applicant to the scheme has to complete this qualification, and so they enter into the tenancy with the appropriate training to succeed.
After they have moved into their property with these new skills, they are not cut off from the services they had been relying on in supported accommodation. A tailored plan is created which is completely client lead, and the tenant is provided with at least three months of support with anything from signing up to local services, to paying bills, to sourcing household items. This ensures that the transition period is as smooth as can be for all parties involved, and not too much of a drastic step.
As well as the tenant, the landlord is provided with ongoing support with a named contact that they can reach out to with queries at any hour of the day or night. They also have the incentive of three months’ rent paid by the council in advance which offers real financial security and allays any worries they may have. A variety of complex reasons are behind each individual in need of benefits, and the scheme also aims to help landlords understand this and become more comfortable with how the system works and how they can work with it. The scheme’s three-tiered approach takes into account the needs of all parties involved to ensure that a mutually beneficial solution is reached.
Since the scheme was launched in February seven tenants have already been moved into their new homes, and we are confident that more will follow. John Woodward is one of these, and six months after being referred to us is now settled into his new flat and receiving continual support from staff. John told us how grateful he was for all of the support, “I could not have done it without all the help I received.” This is a multi-agency project, and so our team is working with those referred from other supported accommodation as well as Cosgarne, meaning that individuals from all across Cornwall can be reached and supported. Some of those already housed have even been moved into properties with landlords from the Cornwall Residential Landlords Association, and this is a partnership that we are keen to continue to grow, to open up the benefits to even more local landlords.
Our aim at Cosgarne Hall is to get people to a stage where they are able to move on. We are first and foremost a supported accommodation charity, and so once a resident is no longer reliant on our support, we want to help them to move to the next step. This then frees up a room for us to take on someone else with more serious support needs that the original tenant had outgrown. The Landlord Incentive Scheme is a great way for us to be able to achieve this, as it enables us to take those who are ready and prepare them for independence without ceasing support altogether. Wayne believes that the success of this project could have larger implications. “I think that this scheme has the potential to work for everyone. If the model can work here, it can work everywhere.” It certainly is a project with great potential, and we hope that more and more people are able to see the positive impact it can have on individuals, and on communities.
The Landlord Incentive Scheme is not a quick fix, but a long-term solution to a serious problem and we are proud to be a part of it. Cllr Mitchell stated: “Our goal is to ensure no one has to sleep rough in Cornwall”, and this scheme is definitely a big step towards that. The initial success is heartening to see, and we are always looking to the future and the new ways that we can work with the council to continue to improve the way we do things, and embrace innovative and creative solutions like this one.