I've uploaded an index to my letters for homeless officers.
The letters are free to download (once you've created an account with a council or housing association email address, and I've approved your 'LA status').
The index includes hyperlinks to each letter. Click on a link for a particular letter and you'll be taken straight to the relevant page in the Resources section.
Some letters are listed in more than one chapter, to make it easier to find them. For example the letter for accepting the main housing duty is listed both in the chapter for ending relief and the section 184 decisions chapter.
If you get lost when using the index simply click on the icon in the top right hand corner of the page. This will take you back to the contents page.
Some of you may have already seen the index if you've attended one of my training courses. It's also been a 'featured document' in the Resources section for a while now.
I've mentioned before that I've tried to use plain English when drafting the letters. While we have to ensure our decisions are legally compliant and have to explain legal concepts, we should also ideally be sending letters that housing applicants can understand.
I use a 'question and answer' format, which helps to break up the text and hopefully makes the structure of the letter accessible. We shouldn't be giving documents to people in crisis that consist of pages and pages of impenetrable text.
The letters include instructions for decision-makers in purple text. There are also gaps for reasons, indicated by red text. The red text prompts you to summarise the facts, show how they meet (or don't meet) the legal test, and provide reasons for adverse findings.
I'm not a big fan of standard letters that include pre-determined descriptions of factual matters. While this is superficially attractive, our decisions should be based on the particular facts of the case at hand. As decision-makers we should expect to have to summarise the relevant facts, set out our factual findings, and succinctly demonstrate how the legal test is satisfied.
While pre-prepared sections of text can help inexperienced staff by providing examples, they're no substitute for developing our own drafting skills, based on an understanding of when the courts will intervene to strike down a decision as unlawful.
Those wanting their staff to understand these public law grounds ('errors of law') and the implications for drafting adverse decision letters may want to take a look at my training course.
I've received some good feedback about the letters from homeless managers, many of whom prefer them to others out there. Let me know if you have any comments (positive or negative), or want to suggest other letters or documents which would be useful.
Whichever standard letters we use, we should consider how effectively we're communicating with homeless people and meeting their need for well structured and clearly expressed correspondence.
Oh, and if you're a homeless officer in Wales, there's a similar index to my Welsh letters in the Resources section.