The Government’s Homelessness Advice and Support Team (HAST), are on the case with local authorities over their homelessness webpages.

They recognise that in most cases the LA’s website is the first port of call for customers looking for housing advice. This is good news for providing a low-cost, early prevention advice service. It can also a technical and resource challenge for housing teams.

What are the MHCLG expecting you to cover on your website? At a minimum, information on:

  • Preventing homelessness and securing accommodation
  • The rights of applicants and the local authority’s duties to assist them
  • The help available to people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness including those not eligible for Housing Act 1996 assistance
  • How to access help from the council and other agencies

They also recommend providing the following:

  • What residents can do themselves to avoid becoming homeless, and advice on services that might be able to provide early help and support
  • Information on how to find and secure private rented accommodation and to get help with deposits
  • Encouragement to make early contact for a range of housing options support and advice, such as debt, rent arrears, landlord’s notice, problems at home, domestic abuse
  • How the Council works with customers threatened with homelessness; personalised housing plans, and the sort of housing options available to single people and to families
  • Advice and information for people who are rough sleeping, and for members of the public who are concerned about somebody who may be sleeping rough
  • Contact details for agencies providing independent advice and advocacy services
  • Links to health, social care and support services in the area

I’ve had a good look at what local authorities across the country are providing online, and it would be fair to say it’s a mixed bag. HAST obviously feel the same, and seem intent on improving standards across the sector.

Is your website compliant with the Homelessness Reduction Act?

Creating and updating websites can be a laborious task. Often the information provided is quickly out of date. I’ve lost count how many times I have gone to a business website, only to find it hasn’t been updated for months. The (not so) new game in town is social media – but this is not necessarily a suitable platform for complex advice services.

Providing lots of information on a page or pages might meet the basic requirements of the legislation, but is it really effective at driving demand away from other, more costly advice channels? How easy is it for customers to find the right advice to match their circumstances among a sea of information?

Help is at hand. It’s called AdviceAid SelfServ. It provides tailored, quality and consistent housing advice – and gives it direct to customers on your website, 24-hours a day. It takes the customer on an interactive journey to ascertain their situation and tailor advice. The user is able to keep a written record for future reference.

AdviceAid contains over 200,000 words of expertly written advice covering the most common issues, including: tenant’s rights, benefits, harassment, S21 notices, mortgage arrears, domestic abuse, rights of occupation, welfare reform, illegal eviction, rent arrears, housing disrepair and much more. The advice is always up-to-date and is even localised to your area.

Based on the Government Design System, AdviceAid SelfServ is branded to match your website and meets the incoming statutory accessibility guidelines*.

The cost might surprise you, starting from just £1000 (per annum). You will not only save on the time and cost of setting up advice pages on your website, but you’ll take your advice to a greater level. 70% of customers expect your website to include a self-service tool, accessible even when your officers are not. Now you can…

Click here to try it for yourself.

* look out for a blog on this topic, coming soon!

Thomas Fowler is Co-Founder and COO of AdviceAid. He has an extensive history of designing services for vulnerable people both in the voluntary and public sector. Thomas was responsible for developing the UK’s first direct access hostel on a working farm. He is passionate about tech for the common good.

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