The Homelessness Reduction Act, implemented in April 2018, imposes various legislative requirements on not only district and borough housing departments, but also on certain named public authorities in England. These named public services are:
- 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
- hospital in the function of providing inpatient care
- The Secretary of State for Defence in relation to members of the regular forces.
This means that if you are one of these agencies and are aware of a client who you consider may be homeless or threatened with homelessness within 56 days you have a legal duty to refer them to a district or borough housing department.
Before making the referral you must:
- have consent for the referral from the individual
- allow the individual to identify the area that they would like the referral to be made to (this can only be within England)
- have consent from the individual that their contact details can be shared with the housing authority so that they can be contacted after the referral has been made.
Although clients are able to express where they would like the referral to be made, they are generally best made to the area where the individual has a local connection.
Details of local connection criteria are as follows:
- where someone has lived for six months out of the last 12.
- where someone has lived for three years out of the last five years.
- where someone is employed.
- where someone has close family members residing (and they have done so for the last 5 years). This generally means parents, adult children or adult siblings.
- other special reason.
- where they have no safe local connection anywhere.
- care leavers – if a local connection is held with any individual district or borough then they will have a local connection with all districts and boroughs in that county. In addition to this, if the young person has been living in that area for a continuous period of two years or more, some or all of which must be before their 16th birthday (this does not apply after they have reached 21).
A referral does not constitute a homeless application, however it will mean that the district or borough can engage with the individual, arrange a housing options assessment, development a personalised housing plan and look at what advice and possible assistance can be given to resolve their housing issues.
If an applicant becomes homeless and does not have a local connection, as long it safe to do so, it is likely that they would be referred back to an area where they do.
How to make a referral
You can make a secure referral using ALERT. This portal will allow your agency to register as a user of ALERT. You will then be able to not only submit referrals but also see when those referrals have been considered by the local authority you have sent them to. This will give you confidence that the referral is being actioned.
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