Dorset Councils Partnership will have to make ‘significant’ changes to its homelessness service under new government legislation.

The Homeless Reduction Act, which is due to be implemented in April 2018, will place new legal duties on local authorities to provide free support to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Under the new legislation, Dorset Councils Partnership will have a duty to help all eligible homeless applicants to secure accommodation for a period of at least six months, regardless of whether they are ‘intentionally homeless’ or in priority need. Those in priority need will be provided with interim accommodation while steps are taken to place them in secure future accommodation.

Dorset Councils Partnership will also be required to provide free advisory services to discuss how to prevent homelessness, how to secure accommodation when homeless, a homeless person’s rights and how a homeless person can access help.

All services will be designed to meet the needs of: persons released from prison or youth detention accommodation, care leavers, former members of the regular armed forces, victims of domestic abuse, persons leaving hospital, persons suffering from a mental illness or impairment, and any other group that is identify as being at particular risk of homelessness.

To meet the new requirements of the Homelessness Reduction Act, Dorset Councils Partnership has been considering maximising the use of temporary accommodation, purchasing or leasing additional temporary accommodation and increasing the range of support options available to homeless people.

The councils has also employed additional staff and provided updated training to react to the changes changes.

A spokesman for Dorset Councils Partnership explained the partnership’s preparation.

He said: “Over the past year, Dorset Councils Partnership has been proactive in improving its homelessness services and ensuring we have begun to prepare the service for the changes introduced by the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

The majority of this has been through the service commitment to achieving the Gold Standard National Practitioners Support Service (NPSS) Award for excellence in front line homelessness services.

“The fundamental service review of housing options led to the design of a new set of procedures (pathways) for when people present as homeless or who require housing advice. These pathways were designed very much with the new act in mind.

“The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 is likely to have a significant impact on the way current services are shaped and delivered within the Dorset Council Partnership. It is vital that all statutory and voluntary services work collaboratively to enable the needs of Dorset Councils Partnership residents to be met.”

A new homelessness code of guidance is due to be published later this year which will provide practical guidance on how the legislation and related policies should be implemented.