What is the duty to refer?

From 1st October 2018, certain named public authorities have had a duty to refer users of their service who they think may be homeless or threatened with becoming homeless to a local authority of the users choice.

The public authorities subject to the duty to refer (in England only) are:

  • prisons
  • young offender institutions
  • secure training centres
  • secure colleges
  • youth offending teams
  • probation services (including community rehabilitation companies)
  • Jobcentres in England
  • social service authorities (both adult and children’s)
  • emergency departments
  • urgent treatment centres
  • hospitals in their function of providing inpatient care
  • Secretary of State for defence in relation to members of the regular armed forces

Local connection

The duty allows service users to choose which local housing authority they are referred to. However, when discussing the referral and offering guidance to the applicant, it is important to be aware that local housing authorities owe more duties towards homeless applicants who have a local connection with their area. If a person asks to be referred to an area they do not have a local connection to, the local housing authority might subsequently refer them on to another local housing authority to which they do have a local connection.

What is commitment to refer?

Housing associations are not named on the list of public bodies bound by the duty to Refer. However the National Housing Federation, Government and its members have created the “Commitment to refer”. This is an obligation to refer anyone to a local authority if they are homeless or threatened with homelessness.

How to make a referral

You can make a referral to us online. Before you refer the applicant, please make sure that you have their consent.

What happens next?

Once we receive the referral, we will attempt to make contact with the applicant. If the applicant is homeless tonight, we will attempt to make contact the same day. Once we can establish contact, we will assess whether we have any emergency accommodation duties. We will also identify the assistance that the applicant may need to prevent them from becoming homeless or to help them to find another home.

Last reviewed: April 26, 2023 by Adam

Next review due: October 26, 2023

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