The Homelessness Reduction Act
In April 2018, the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 came into force. This represents the most significant change in homelessness legislation for more than 20 years.
In defining homelessness, the Act asks:
Are you are homeless or threatened with homelessness within 56 days and seeking accommodation, or assistance in obtaining accommodation?
The Act confers new legal duties on English councils so that everyone who is homeless or at risk of homelessness has access to the same level of assistance. This means that local authorities are legally obliged to provide more meaningful assistance to all people who are eligible and homeless or threatened with homelessness, irrespective of their priority need status.
The new prevention duty
If we are satisfied that an applicant is threatened with homelessness and is eligible for assistance, we must take ‘reasonable steps’ to help them avoid becoming homeless.
Once triggered, the prevention duty will continue for 56 days.
The new relief duty
If we are satisfied that someone is homeless and is eligible for assistance, we must take ‘reasonable steps’ to help them secure accommodation. This could be supported accommodation or a private let.
Once triggered, the relief duty will continue for 56 days. We will provide an assessment of a person's needs and a Personal Housing Plan to help find them somewhere to live.
Duty to refer
From October 2018, organisations such as prisons, probation services, Jobcentres and NHS Trusts have a duty to help those at risk of becoming homeless by referring them to a housing authority.
The customer must agree and identify a local housing authority in England where they would like the referral to be sent.
This new duty aims to ensure that a person’s housing situation is considered whenever they come into contact with any wider public service and encourages local authorities to build on or develop relationships, protocols or joint working arrangements with partners.