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Homelessness - duty to refer

By law, certain public organisations must tell us about people who are currently homeless or at risk of becoming homeless in the next 56 days. Find our how to use our Alert Portal to make a referral.

Public authorities should use the Alert Portal to make a referral under the Duty to Refer. Other agencies (such as housing associations) are also encouraged to use this.

About Duty to Refer

Please read before referring.

Certain public authorities have a legal duty (Housing Act 1996 Pt VII s.213B) to refer (with their consent) someone they consider is homeless, or threatened with homelessness within 56 days. This must include their name, contact details and reason for referral.  
This includes situations where the person to be referred has no accommodation available to them, cannot gain entry to an address or where it is not reasonable for them to continue to occupy a property.  
The following public authorities are subject to the Duty to Refer:  

  • Prisons
  • Youth offender institutions
  • Secure training centres
  • Secure colleges
  • Youth offending teams
  • Probation services (including community rehabilitation companies)
  • Jobcentre Plus
  • Social service authorities
  • NHS A&E and urgent treatment centres
  • Hospitals in their function of providing inpatient care
  • Regular armed forces 

Before making a referral a public authority must:

 a) have consent to do so from the service user

b) allow the individual to identify the housing authority in England which they would like the notification to be made to and

c) have consent from the individual that their contact details can be supplied so the housing authority can contact them regarding the referral  

Local connection is important

Although anyone has the right to apply to any council as homeless, people should be encouraged to apply where they have a local connection.

There are more likely to be housing options if there's a local connection. 

A local connection means:

  • residence of choice for 6 out of the last 12 months or 3 out of the last 5 years
  • current employment (except casual work)
  • where close relatives have lived for at least 5 years.

Care leavers

Care leavers have a local connection to the area of the children services authority that owes them leaving care duties.

If the children services authority is a county council but not a housing authority, the young person will have a local connection with every housing authority district falling within the area of the children services authority.

Where a care leaver is aged under 21 and normally lives in a different area to that of a local authority that owes them leaving care duties, and has done for at least 2 years including some time before they turned 16, the young person will also have a local connection in that area.

Residence in hospital or prison does not give a local connection.

Where a person is homeless (rather than threatened with homelessness) and has no local connection, we may refer the person to any area where there is a safe local connection.

If you are unsure about local connection criteria or if you wish to informally discuss a case before referring, please contact 01483 444244 or email housingadvice@guildford.gov.uk