Prevention of Homelessness and Provision of Accommodation for 16 and 17 Year Olds who may be Homeless and/or Require Accommodation; and Duty to Refer
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter links to statutory guidance:
- Prevention of Homelessness and Provision of accommodation for 16 and 17 year old young people who may be homeless and/or require accommodation (2018): This guidance is solely concerned with the functions of children's services and housing services when young people seek help from, or are referred to, local authorities because of homelessness or being threatened with homelessness. It incorporates judgements made in the House of Lords over several years around the duties of local authorities under Section 20 (Children Act 1989) and Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996. The guidance also reflects the duties introduced under the Homelessness Reduction Act (2017);
- Homelessness - Duty to Refer: the Homelessness Reduction Act (2017) places a duty on specified public authorities to refer service users who they think may be homeless or threatened with homelessness to local authority homelessness/housing options teams. The guidance provides helpful information and detail on the referral process which is brought out in additional links below.
AMENDMENTThis chapter was updated in April 2021 to add a link to Joint Housing Protocols for Care Leavers: good practice advice (DfE and MHCLG) to support the development of joint protocols that can help local authorities to meet the accommodation needs of care leavers (see Section 4, Housing Protocols for Care Leavers). It also reflects the amended Working Together to Safeguard Children (see Section 2, Homelessness: Duty to Refer and Section 3, Homelessness: Code of Guidance - Referral Process).
1. Prevention of Homelessness and Provision of Accommodation for 16 and 17 Year Old Young People who may be Homeless and/or Require Accommodation
Young people may become homeless for a variety of reasons. However, family breakdown, mental health concerns and unemployment are often major contributing factors to this. 16 and 17 year olds who are homeless or threatened with homelessness are likely to be vulnerable and will often be at risk of harm in the absence of intervention. Safeguarding and promoting their welfare should be central to service provision. It is therefore essential that children's services and housing services work together to plan and provide services that are centred on young people and their families, and prevent young people from being passed back and forth between services.
2. Homelessness: Duty to Refer
In October 2018, the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 came into effect and provided new duties on local housing authorities to intervene at an earlier stage in order to reduce the risk of homelessness.
The guide to the duty to refer identifies 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 section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 by their landlord, which expires within 56 days.
Working Together to Safeguard Children (as amended in December 2020) underpins the importance of recognising the issue of 'being homeless' and the vulnerability of children, and highlights the 'duty on certain public authorities to refer to a housing authority service users they consider are or may be homeless or threatened with homelessness'.
3. Homelessness: Code of Guidance - Referral Process
This guidance advises that the service user must:
- Consent to the referral being completed in the first place;
- Allow the individual to identify the housing authority in England which they would like the notification to be sent to;
- Have consent from the individual for their contact details to be supplied so the housing authority can contact them regarding the referral.
The referral to a housing authority must include the individual's name and contact details and the agreed reason for referral, (e.g. that the individual is homeless or at risk of homelessness), and may include:
- Whether an individual is already homeless, and if not when they are likely to become homeless;
- Whether the individual is at risk of rough sleeping on the date the referral is made and if so whether this is imminent;
- Risk assessment information, considering risks to the individual and to others;
- Key medical information where relevant.
Local authorities should make the referral process transparent on their websites and should also make the referral process as simple as possible. See: Duty to refer: Referral Form. The referral should be sent to the following e-mail address: email@example.com.