The Duty to Refer: A Guide for Public Bodies FAQ

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

How much information do I need to provide when I am referring someone?
 

Referrals to local housing authorities must include the service user’s name, contact details and the agreed reason for the service user being referred to the local housing authority (i.e. the public authority considers that the service user is either homeless or threatened with homelessness). Local housing authorities may create their own referral forms which ask for more information, however, only the details mentioned here are legally required to make a legitimate referral.

Back to top     -     Public bodies homelessness referral form
 

What will happen when I refer someone to the local housing authority?
 

When the local housing authority receives your referral, they should make contact with the service user being referred using the contact details provided. When you have sent your referral, a local housing authority should provide you with a receipt of referral, which may be in the form of an automatic email reply. You are advised to contact the local housing authority if you do not receive this.
 

It is good practice for local housing authorities to go beyond referral procedures and work with other public authorities to prepare a comprehensive assessment of need for the service user. Local housing authorities and public authorities are encouraged to put arrangements in place to support these joint efforts, and to be open to working together to achieve the best possible solutions for their service users.

Local housing authorities should include information about how they will respond where a referral indicates that an applicant is at risk of, or is already, sleeping rough.

Back to top     -     Public bodies homelessness referral form
 

What duties does the local housing authority have to assist people who they accept as homeless?
 

The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 places duties on local housing authorities to take reasonable steps to prevent and relieve an eligible applicant’s homelessness. Once the local housing authority has agreed that the applicant is eligible for assistance (based on their immigration status) and that they are homeless or threatened with homelessness, they will work with the applicant to develop a Personalised Housing Plan, which identifies the reasonable steps that the service user and the local housing authority will take to ensure the applicant has and is able to retain suitable accommodation. If the applicant is homeless during the 56 day relief stage and may have priority need (because, for example, they are pregnant or have children in their care), the local housing authority must provide them with temporary accommodation. Some single people may also have a priority need, for example if they are vulnerable as a result of old age or disability.

Back to top     -     Public bodies homelessness referral form
 

I am aware that a member of staff in another public authority has previously referred someone to the housing authority. Do I need to refer them as well?
 

Some service users, who are threatened with homelessness or are homeless, such as prisoners, may come into contact with a range of different public authorities. While it is clearly desirable to minimise duplication, the priority should be to ensure that service users are being referred so they can receive the right support at an early stage from local housing authorities. Additionally, it should be noted that a client’s housing circumstances may have changed from the last time they were referred, which may require different support from a local housing authority. Therefore, the public authority should – with the individual’s consent - make a referral to the local housing authority.

The Code of Guidance advises local housing authorities to agree arrangements with public authorities to consider the issues around multiple and repeat referrals. This may include providing information on systems to enable public authorities to check whether someone has been referred or is receiving support from the local housing authority.

Back to top     -     Public bodies homelessness referral form
 

I would like to do a joint referral with a colleague. Is this possible, or do we need to complete separate referrals?
 

It is possible to complete a joint referral, if you submit the referral at the same time as your colleague and both sign and agree to the content provided within the referral.

Back to top     -     Public bodies homelessness referral form
 

I work in a public authority which the Duty to Refer doesn’t apply. However, I fear that someone is threatened with homelessness or is currently homeless. What should I do?
 

If the public authority you work for is not subject to the Duty to Refer, you may still refer the service user to the local housing authority, and, once they have made an application, the service user will be entitled to the same assistance as they would be if your public authority were subject to the Duty to Refer. It is still essential that you have the service user’s consent before referring them to the local housing authority and share the minimum details required to make a legitimate referral. You must also allow the service user to identify the local housing authority in England that they would like their referral to be made to.

Back to top     -     Public bodies homelessness referral form
 

I am concerned that my service user will not respond to contact from the local housing authority following referral, and may be best advised to attend the Housing Options service themselves for help.  Can I offer this advice?
 

Any service user who needs advice or help about homelessness can contact their local housing authority and expect to receive some assistance. The Duty to Refer is an additional route intended to encourage earlier identification of need, and to enable public authorities to work better together to meet those needs. If a service user needs more support to help them access services, public authorities should work together to provide this. Where there is concern that a referral might fail without additional support then this could be identified through the referral information, and/or through further contact with the local housing authority to arrange an appointment for assessment. However, a public authority with the Duty to Refer should not advise a service user to make a direct application for assistance themselves, as an alternative to making a referral.

If the service user is not eligible for assistance under the Homelessness Reduction Act, they will still be able to receive free information and advice from the local housing authority.

Back to top     -     Public bodies homelessness referral form
 

My public authority also has responsibilities to help accommodate service users.  Do I still need to make a referral to a local housing authority?
 

Public authorities that have arrangements in place to secure accommodation for service users would not need to make a referral if they are satisfied that the person is not threatened with homelessness. 

In the case of 16-17 year olds, duties may be owed by children’s services and/or by housing authorities depending on the circumstances.  Specific guidance on how the duty to refer applies to 16-17 year olds who are homeless or threatened with homelessness is included within joint DfE/MHCLG guidance Prevention of homelessness and provisions of accommodation for 16 and 17 year olds young people who may be homeless and/ or require accommodation.

Back to top     -     Public bodies homelessness referral form
 

Is a referral an application?
 

Service users must still make an application in the usual way following a referral. However, we have set our expectation in the Homelessness Code of Guidance that local authorities should always respond to referrals by making contact with the individual.

Back to top     -     Public bodies homelessness referral form
 

Will I hear what happened to my referral?
 

The Duty to Refer does not require the local housing authority to tell the notifying public authority about the outcome of the referral. If the service user consents for the local housing authority to notify the public authority of the outcome of the referral then they may but there is no legal duty for them to notify you of the outcome.

Back to top     -     Public bodies homelessness referral form
 

What should I do if I think my referral has not been acted upon?
 

When you have sent your referral, a local housing authority should provide you with a receipt of referral, which may be in the form of an automatic email reply. You are advised to contact the local housing authority if you do not receive this. If you do not think your referral has been acted upon you are advised to get in touch with the local housing authority.

Back to top     -     Public bodies homelessness referral form
 

Do I have to use the LHA’s referral form, it contains so much information?
 

A specified public authority may make a referral to a local housing authority in any manner they wish as long as they include the minimum information required by law. Where a local housing authority has not established referral mechanisms or not provided information about their mechanisms, or if the referral is coming from another part of the country, a simple form is available which can be used by public authorities to make a referral.      -     Public bodies homelessness referral form
 

Back to top
 

The LHA’s referral form requires information I don’t have; can I still make a referral?
 

As long as you have the service users name, contact details and the agreed reason for referral (e.g. the individual is homeless or at risk of homelessness) then you can still make a referral. You will always need the service users consent.

Back to top      -     Public bodies homelessness referral form

Last Updated: 1 October 2018