Excessive paperwork has been blamed for Barnet Council’s failure to meet its target to stop people becoming homeless.

The council prevented 419 households from becoming homeless in the second quarter of 2018/19, falling short of its target of 552.

Compared to the same period during the previous year, the number of homelessness preventions was down by a fifth.

The council’s latest Housing Performance Report claims officers have been spending 60 to 70 per cent of their time on administrative processes due to the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 (HR Act).

It is streamlining its IT systems and hiring more agency staff to get homelessness reductions back on track, and performance is expected to “significantly improve” in the third quarter.

Described as “one of the biggest changes to the rights of homeless people in England for 15 years” by housing charity Shelter, the Homelessness Reduction Act placed extra duties on local authorities to prevent and relieve homelessness.

It means councils now need to assess the cause of homelessness and the circumstances and needs of all household members before drawing up a “personalised plan” to prevent or relieve homelessness.

Tackling homelessness is the only one of the housing committee priorities rated ‘red’, meaning it is 10 per cent or more off target.

The committee is on track to meet two of its other priorities, ‘building compliance and fire safety’ and ‘driving up the quality of the private rented sector’.

Another priority, providing suitable housing to support vulnerable people, is rated amber, meaning it is up to 10 per cent off target.

The report is due to be discussed at the next meeting of the housing committee, which will meet at Hendon Town Hall on Monday (January 14) at 7.30pm.