South Norfolk and Broadland District Council's approach to tackling homelessness pressures

South Norfolk and Broadland District Council appointed a Housing Solutions Officer - Early Intervention and Prevention Specialist to help deliver the council's objectives around homelessness.

Our approach

We aim to deal with 85 per cent of our issues before people get to the stage of being without a bed and in need of temporary accommodation.

Our homeless prevention (compared to the statutory interventions) means people don’t appear as homeless as we work on these cases before someone gets to this stage. We have also widened our scope of who could fall into ‘what preventing homelessness looks like’ to support our residents even further.

How do we provide holistic support to achieve this 85 per cent of preventative action?

We have our non-statutory Help Hub team who provide wraparound support. We have nearly 30 members of staff known as Community Connectors or Social Prescribers, who sit in GP surgeries across Norfolk to provide support with a multi-agency front. This support is non-clinical and is there to provide support through listening, building rapport, creating trust, and signposting. This can range from signposting residents to our internal exercise referral team or housing and benefits team, to grants that we can work with them on to ensure their debts can be reduced, or referrals to external partners such as Citizens Advice Bureau. 

Our social prescribers are based in their own specific GP surgery, allowing for continuity for our residents. This has been especially beneficial when many don’t recurrently see the same GP. Our team combine the non-clinical and medical solutions provided by the GP, to provide support in targeted yet sustainable ways. Having our own dedicated office in these GP surgeries has built trust with our residents. Dedicating bi-weekly meetings with GPs to discuss solutions and next steps has proven to be incredibly effective in both dealing with the issue currently presenting itself, but also the symptoms.

We have started to expand our advertisements in places (such as foodbanks, community groups, pharmacies, and libraries) where we know residents will be needing our support but may feel too embarrassed - or simply don’t know how - to ask for it. We have also just unveiled our Community Engagement Van, that has begun outreach across many towns in our two districts. The community connectors go out in the van to identified areas of need to provide support and advice to our residents, with no appointment needed and all information being confidential. This further outreach tackling bereavement support, housing issues, money, or domestic issues (to name a few) is yet another way we are tackling issues to support residents for achieving our 85 per cent preventative levels. 

The challenge

We have typically dealt with residents from similar backgrounds and situations coming to us for support, however with the cost-of-living crisis we are seeing a wider group of people needing help. Whilst this is stemming from our current economic situation, we have found that the severity of the issue could have been lessened if residents had contacted us earlier. Many contact us when issues have reached a crisis, such as a case of being issued a Section 21, a housing association notifying us if rent arrears are due or a breakdown in the home. 

We work not only to prevent these issues but prevent the impact or time pressure that accompanies them. When issues start to snowball, there is further support needed from us or partner agencies, but more importantly it causes a bigger detriment to our residents, in an already stressful and anxiety-inducing period. 

As well as all this, we also struggle with not always receiving data from some partners. We can receive data from housing associations who follow guidelines that allow them to the share relevant information with local authorities. However, there are some who do not work in this way. There is a need for an expansion of sharing data, allowing local authorities to be more proactive and work with less, especially in this current climate of doing more with less.


We have expanded our Housing and Benefits team which has a variety of Housing Solution Officers, with many having different expertise and focusing on specific issues, such as domestic abuse, helping those leaving prison or resettling those fleeing the war in Ukraine. Looking at the challenges South Norfolk and Broadland are facing; we saw we needed to take a two-pronged approach, both reactive and proactive. 

Our efforts over the past few years have been acquiring temporary accommodation, balancing both the needs for our residents as well as ensuring we could stay financially viable. Now that our officers have successfully achieved this, we are looking at how we can prevent residents becoming homeless. From this, in late 2023 we created a role in the Housing Solutions team that focuses on Early Intervention and Prevention and the Officer has been in post since February 2024. 

We also have our council’s two Strategic Plans and delivery plans, where we have a priority to ‘Ensure our homes are fit for purpose and meet the needs of all our residents’ linking with our statutory responsibilities. We have clear key performance indicators (KPI’s) to prevent homelessness, as well as the national and internal homeless strategies, where we are constantly checking and managing our performance, seeing where efforts and resource should be allocated. 

All this together mandated the need for a further review, continuing to deliver fantastic results and see how we can adapt and change the way we work to deliver even further.


This new role, Housing Solutions Officer - Early Intervention and Prevention Specialist, was set up with a wide definition of what constituted preventing homelessness. The key areas that we have focused on have been broken into the following categories:

Widening the parameters for what specialist officers can do

We have widened our scope of who could fall into ‘what preventing homelessness looks like’. This has stemmed from conversations with residents at our ‘Help Hub’ (multi-agency service) and we have constituted recommendations for how to better support those residents. 

The officer has also gone through previous case notes and is beginning work with a variety of agencies in the county, to work further than statutory requirements and general guidelines. Additionally, the officer looks through the new housing register applications awaiting processing for cases with urgencies and work with these residents 1-1. 

A big part of this will be raising awareness, with multiple different agencies and stakeholders and adjusting these conversations as such. For example, there is a high number of children in care who immediately need our support when they turn eighteen. We are beginning work with different children's services agencies across Norfolk, to ensure that these conversations can be had a lot earlier so there isn’t the time-sensitive and unnecessary stress that has happened routinely in the past. 

We are also expanding our work with private landlords, ensuring that the previous work we have done in covering residents’ deposits can be furthered, lessening the demand on the social housing team and temporary accommodation teams, as well as social landlords and residents. 

Partnership working

We prioritise partnership working and have found how this makes us work in a much more agile and flexible approach. We have set up monthly meetings with housing associations, discussing potential issues on the horizon and prioritise the work accordingly.

The relationship we have built with these housing associations is a testimony to our officers and housing association staff. For example they prioritise stability and safety for residents who have built up rent arrears. There are many housing associations we work with that, instead of following the usual approach (send letters/outline the consequences of being in arrears), they contact us first. This has widened the support we can provide massively, building a relationship of trust and support.

One of the original challenges identified surrounding data is moving in the right direction and encouraging more cooperation and practical support. In addition to our external partnership, South Norfolk and Broadland have a culture of working collaboratively and looking at residents in a more holistic manner. Our officers work with officers across the council, looking at what best support there can be for residents, whether that's through help with benefits, seeing social prescribers/community connectors/those who can support with mental health or anti-social behaviour issues, and ensuring that when these issues are solved, they are done so permanently.

Modernising our communication

Linked with our corporate strategy, of being a ‘modern, caring council safeguarding our future’, we are prioritising finding new ways of working to reduce our operating costs without sacrificing service quality and are looking to develop a community engagement strategy. 

Our demographics range substantially in our district, especially around age. However, this doesn’t correlate with those presenting themselves as at risk of homelessness, so we have needed to ensure that there is correct communication that really does engage with those who are needing our assistance. This has meant we have expanded past the standard approach of just sending letters and emails. We are using mobile phones to connect with residents, seeing this approach as more informal and has eventually led to more trust. We text residents, ring residents and use WhatsApp for receiving files and pictures, where this is all uploaded to our system to ensure it is appropriate and recorded. 

The conversations had with these new methods of communication has allowed officers to have much better communication and advice, such as talking through money management, helping with applying for appropriate benefits or just being a listening ear. We are also undertaking more home visits with these residents, to get a full picture of the situation and deepen the trust between our officers and those in our districts most in need.  

Prioritising a culture of trial and error

In this current climate, this can be incredibly scarce. We have been able to achieve this through our officer’s hard work in the other areas outlined, like our approach to acquiring and providing temporary accommodation. We still have many residents presenting themselves as homeless, but we are now able to focus our attention on prevention and more innovative approaches. 

With all the previous key areas outlined, there have been many attempts at preventing homelessness, some with success and some with little. However, we have persevered throughout establishing what works and what direction we need to focus our efforts in, such as rolling out mediation training for our officers.


We currently have around 600 cases of those who are presenting themselves as homeless in each council. This new position has been live for a month, and this officer single-handedly has already increased those from no longer being at risk of being homeless by 12 per cent. This is projected to increase to 20 per cent by the end of their first year, and we are already looking at how we can expand further past just one post. This has been incredibly impactful, even just looking alone at the statistics. However, our person-centric approach has meant that we have measured the impact from this not just by numbers but also from the praise and conversations had with these residents since. 

The work has not stopped with these residents when their rent arrears are sorted, or when a familial dispute has allowed for the vulnerable person to stay for a longer period, compared to the original eviction. These conversations are ongoing, and there is plenty of work that this officer and those in several different service areas are doing in-between, to ensure that the original solution is successful.

These residents have been in contact with this officer since, which a few of our partners aren’t able to always receive as we hold such a different role in our resident’s life. We have been able to talk about the next steps of their payment plans and the ways that this support has helped them, gently alleviating some of the shame that is so often accompanied when asking for help. 

Most importantly, the impact on these residents’ has been monumental. Whether that's allowing for them to stay in the places they called home, or ensure that others who were near to the threat of homelessness have the right support our district councils behind them.


Sophia Brooks - Housing Solutions Officer (Early Intervention & Prevention Specialist)

David Neville – Housing & Benefits Manager

Richard Dunsire - Strategic Housing and Independence Senior Manager