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Housing advice

Refer Someone Else Who is Homeless or Threatened With Homelessness

From 1st October 2018 The Homelessness Reduction Act introduced a duty on certain public authorities to refer service users who they think may be homeless or threatened with homelessness to a housing authority.

The public services included in the duty are as follows:

  • prisons;

  • youth offender institutions;

  • secure training centres;

  • secure colleges;

  • youth offending teams;

  • probation services (including community rehabilitation companies);

  • Jobcentre Plus;

  • social service authorities;

  • emergency departments;

  • urgent treatment centres; and,

  • hospitals in their function of providing inpatient care

  • The Secretary of State for Defence is also subject to the duty to refer in relation to members of the regular armed forces.

    Requirements of the duty to refer

    The new duty requires these authorities to identify and refer a service user who is homeless or may be threatened with homelessness, to a local housing authority of the service user's choice.

    The service user must consent to the referral being made. The consent can be made in writing or given orally.

    A person is considered homeless if:

  • they do not have any accommodation which is available for them which they have a legal right to occupy; or,

  • it is not reasonable for the person to occupy their current accommodation, for example, because they would be at risk of domestic abuse

    Someone is defined as being threatened with homelessness where they are likely to become homeless within 56 days, or have been served with a valid notice under by their landlord, which expires within 56 days.

    Identifying when a referral might be required

    Staff in public authorities will usually know if a service user is sleeping rough and therefore actually homeless. They may also become aware of service users who are homeless but not roofless (sometimes described as 'sofa surfers') if they provide 'care of' addresses or frequently change their address.

    Identifying that a family, couple or individual is threatened with homelessness is less straight forward. The following are factors that would indicate that a service user may be threatened with homelessness and should be asked about their housing circumstances:

  • problems with debt, particularly rent or mortgage arrears

  • problems with a landlord, being threatened with eviction or served notice to leave

  • being a victim of domestic abuse, or other forms of violence, threats or intimidation

  • approaching discharge from hospital, armed forces or release from custody, with no accommodation available to them

  • having previously been in care, the armed forces or in prison

    Choosing which local authority to refer to

    The duty allows service users to choose which local housing authority they are referred to. However, when discussing the referral and offering guidance to the service user, it is important to be aware that local housing authorities owe more duties towards homeless applicants who have a local connection with their area.

    If a person asks to be referred to an area they do not have a local connection to, the local housing authority might subsequently refer them on to another local housing authority to which they do have a local connection.

    In general, a service user is likely to have a local connection to an area if they live or have lived there, work there or have a close family connection. However, a service user should not be referred to an area where they would be at risk of violence.

    Obtaining consent

    A referral cannot be made without the service user's consent. Those working with a service user they consider ought to be referred should ensure that the service user understands the purpose of the referral, and consents to information and contact details being passed on to the local housing authority.

    Further information on the Duty to Refer can be found HERE

    How to refer

    All Local Authorities in Hampshire have agreed a single referral pathway for public authorities. For consistency across services a single referral form is available to complete and send to the required local authority.

    adobe icon Hampshire Homelessness Referral Form [276kb]

    This form should be sent to dutytorefer@nfdc.gov.uk

    A copy of the joint Hampshire protocol and contact details for other local authorities in Hampshire, can be found here

    adobe icon Hampshire Homelessness Referral Protocol and Contact Details [487kb]

    Alternatively, and for any other agency, particularly those locally operating within the New Forest, we are equally happy for you to complete our online referral portal HERE which will record your agency details and will automatically create a case for your client in our management system.

    Upon receipt of any referral we aim to contact the applicant within 48 hours, unless the situation is more urgent.

Updated: 28 Sep 2018
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