Shelter adopts watchdog role

Homelessness agency Shelter is investing £2.2 million in 55 new posts to help it monitor the local government implementation of the new Homelessness Act.

A new five-strong team based in London, called the Homelessness Act Implementation Group, will help target every local authority in the country through conferences, workshops, publications and a dedicated web site, which will carry interactive debates. It has also appointed Sally Copley of the London Voluntary Service Council as national project manager.

The bulk of the work will take place within Shelter's 35 housing advice centres. Over the next 15 months, 30 new recruits and 20 existing staff "campaigners" will liaise with all 350 local authorities to ensure the Act is implemented.

Shelter, which campaigned long and hard for the Homelessness Act, now plans to shape it on the ground by providing consultancy, research and by devising policy to help local authorities.

Under the new Homelessness Act, local authorities are obliged to house more homeless groups and, more importantly for Shelter, to put strategies in place to prevent homelessness from occurring in the future.

Chris Holmes, director of Shelter, said: "Shelter sees the successful implementation of the Homelessness Act as an absolute priority. We have seen many examples in the past of good laws being passed which failed to help those in need because they were poorly implemented. Shelter is committing considerable resources to ensure that homeless people get the most out of the Act."

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