In April 2013, the National Practitioner Support Service (NPSS) was established to support local authorities to meet the 10 Local Challenges set out in the ‘Making every contact count’ report, which had been published the previous year by the Ministerial Working Group on Homelessness. Whilst set within the framework of the ‘Gold Standard Programme,’ the support NPSS provides to local authorities covers a wide spectrum with a common goal; the improvement of frontline housing and homelessness services with a view to increasing opportunities for the early intervention and prevention of homelessness.
The credibility of the National Practitioner Support Service comes from the experience of the team; all of whom are practitioners on secondment from local authorities across the country and who remain embedded in local services. This recognises local authorities’ preference for a local approach with national delivery.
NPSS works to support the implementation and enhancement of prevention focused services through the development and delivery of a bespoke package of support.
NPSS has developed and delivers training courses on a wide range of subjects relating to homelessness prevention including domestic abuse awareness, ensuring a fit for purpose homelessness strategy, the importance of case file management, completing accurate P1e returns, demonstrating value for money adopting a PRSO policy and many more. In May 2017, the team commenced delivery of over 70 Homelessness Reduction Act implementation courses; supporting local authorities and key partners to prepare for the requirements of the Act. To date, 94% of all local authorities in England having attended NPSS training since 2013.
The NPSS National Conference is now in its third year. Feedback from conferences to date has been hugely positive with 99% of delegates rating the conference as ‘good’, ‘very good’ or ‘excellent.’ The conference has become the chosen event for local authority housing practitioners to attend due to its focus on supporting local authorities and partners to prevent homelessness providing an environment within which to share good practice. Delegates have also reported that the NPSS conference offers increasing value for money, particularly when local authority training budgets are limited. To date, 60% of all local authorities in England have attended the national conference with delegate numbers increasing year on year.
NPSS hosts a series of annual sounding boards each year in January which provide a fantastic mechanism for engaging with local authorities at a local level. The Sounding Boards enable NPSS to share national policy, changes to legislation and case law and facilitate networking and the sharing of challenges, ideas and good practice. To date, over 70% of local authorities in England have attended a sounding board since 2013.
An innovative partnership between the National Practitioner Support Service and Housing Partner's, the company behind Home Swapper, will deliver a comprehensive IT solution to support local authorities deliver their new obligations.
NPSS, in partnership with Housing Partners, is very proud to offer all local authorities a free to use ‘s.213b duty to refer’ and ’s.198 referrals’ system allowing communication across all 326 local authorities and specified public bodies. The incoming Homelessness Reduction Act is set to place an increased duty on local authorities to take steps to prevent people from becoming homeless.
NPSS is synonymous with the Gold Standard programme; a peer review programme designed to support local authorities deliver more efficient and cost effective homelessness prevention services.
The Gold Standard begins with local authorities participating in a peer review of their frontline homelessness service in preparation for applying for each of the 10 Local Challenges. By achieving the 10 Local Challenges, local authorities are able to demonstrate that they have in place a comprehensive prevention focused service for all customers.
NPSS has developed a series of service development tools to provide local authorities with a strategic framework on which to develop delivery plans, future proof delivery and demonstrate the importance of ongoing financial investment. These include a statistical compiler; essential for any local authority reviewing their homelessness strategy or developing a new one and a Value for Money tool which supports local authorities to demonstrate the cost effectiveness of early intervention and prevention.
NPSS has also produced a comprehensive range of toolkits which support the operational delivery of local authority front line housing services and contain detailed guidance, template letters, standard forms, protocols and good practice examples across a number of key elements of the current homelessness prevention agenda.