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New digital service gives those at risk of homelessness immediate help

Published: 22 August 2019

Cllr Emma Morse Cllr Emma Morse tries out the new digital service

People at risk of homelessness can now contact the council to start accessing key housing services at any time of the day or night – every day of the year.

Advice, information and access to our housing team can now be obtained from the our website.

The new digital service gives people the ability to make appointments, upload documents and communicate directly with housing case workers, without needing to take time out of their day to visit the council offices.

It also allows professionals from statutory and voluntary agencies to easily refer clients who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

By using the links on the website, the process of accessing the council’s housing services is greatly speeded up. The council has pledged to respond within one working day and already has an impressive record in achieving this.

Previously, anyone who walked into the Civic Centre with an urgent housing enquiry would be given an appointment to return at a later date, unless they faced an immediate homelessness emergency. Information would initially be gathered using pen and paper.

Over the past 12 months, the council has been working with the Local Government Association on a digital housing project to modernise and improve the service.

The aim is to enable a digital approach which adds real value for customers and also enhance value for money in the service.

Cllr Emma Morse, Lead Councillor for Supporting People, said: “If you are homeless or consider yourself threatened with homelessness, we want to hear from you so that we can do our best to help.

“We want to make it incredibly easy to contact us – that’s what this initiative is all about. Vulnerable people can avoid wasting time coming in to the Civic Centre only to be told to come back at another time.

“By starting the process online straightaway, at any time, people can be sure that our housing team can start the process of attempting to resolve the issues straightaway.”

Cllr Morse added: “We are striving to ensure that everyone who becomes homeless in Exeter gets help, so if you are already homeless you should visit the website, follow the links and let us know right away.”

People facing an immediate homeless emergency with nowhere to stay that night, should continue to visit the Civic Centre, where the Council can assess their needs and provide assistance. However those at risk of homelessness are urged to use the new digital access to contact the Council early and avoid the crisis of homelessness.

The council’s website now enables:

  • An online Self-Referral Form, allowing 24/7 access 365 days a year to customers seeking assistance with a housing issue, as well as document upload, without initially having to visit the Civic Centre. It is backed by a one working day response time.
  • A Contact Your Caseworker portal, allowing existing customers to message their caseworker and upload documents in a secure way. It is hoped that this will reduce walk in traffic, as this accounts for around half of those who walk in to the Civic Centre and can lead to increased waiting times for customers.
  • An online Professionals Only – Referring Your Client form, designed to both enable the ‘duty to refer’, introduced for some agencies under the Homelessness Reduction Act in October last year, as well as widening the reach to encourage as many agencies as possible to refer people to us who are threatened with homelessness.

The homelessness portal is now available on our website for anyone seeking housing advice.

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