Duty to Refer

From 1st October 2018, as part of the Homelessness Reduction Act, public bodies will have a legal duty to refer anyone they are working with to a local authority if they are homeless or threatened with becoming homelessness.

The aim of this duty is to provide the local housing authority with the opportunity for early intervention & engagement with the client. This maximises the amount of time that housing authorities have to help secure accommodation to prevent the client becoming homeless.

The public bodies must ensure that the person they are working with:

  • Agrees to the referral
  • Is advised of how local connection is defined before they are referred
  • Has the choice of which local authority they would like to be referred to.

The government has issued 'A guide to the duty to refer', to provide guidance for referring authorities. This guidance includes answers to 'frequently asked questions', as well as sections on obtaining consent and choosing which authority to refer to.

Public Services with a Duty to Refer

The following public services have a duty to refer people who they identify as being homeless or at risk of homelessness.

  • Prisons
  • Youth offender institutions
  • Secure training centres
  • Secure colleges
  • Youth offending teams
  • Probation services (including community rehabilitation companies)
  • Jobcentre Plus
  • Social service authorities
  • Emergency services departments
  • Urgent treatment centres
  • Hospitals in their function of providing inpatient care
  • Secretary of State for Defence in relation to members of the regular forces

Please note that if your agency is not listed, you may still refer someone to us providing that the person agrees to be referred. However, no referral can be made without the consent of the service user.

Details of local connection criteria

If someone is homeless then there is likely to be a relief duty placed on the local authority where that person has a local connection. Someone is defined as having a local connection to an area if they have:

  • lived in that area for six of the last twelve months
  • lived in that area for 3 out of the last five years
  • employment in that area on a permanent basis
  • strong family connection in the area (as long as the family member has lived in the area for a minimum of 5 years). Strong family connection is usually restricted to, mother, father, brother, sister or adult child, although other family members may be considered in exceptional circumstances.

Local connection to an area does not apply if the person is in prison or an institution in that area unless one of the criteria above applies.  Local connection requirements may be disregarded in cases where a person is fleeing violence and is at risk in that area.

If someone is at risk of homelessness but is currently in accommodation, East Herts Council may owe a prevention duty regardless of whether they have local connection to that area.

If someone is already homeless then the Council will investigate whether there is a local connection to East Herts District. If there is not, they will be referred to the Local Authority where they do have a previous connection, unless it would not be safe to do so.

How to refer someone to us

If you are a professional agency and want to refer someone for housing advice because they are homeless or at risk of homelessness, please use our Housing Assistance Referral Portal.

East Herts accept referrals from all agencies, not just those who are under a statutory duty to refer under the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.  Please ensure that you have obtained the individual’s consent to the referral, including their consent to their contact details being passed on to us.

We will aim to contact the individual directly within two working days of receiving a referral.

Please refer to the Council's privacy notice for further information.