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What is the duty to refer

From 1 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 user’s 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 adults’ 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 to refer allows service users to choose which local housing authority they are referred to. But 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 refer them on to another local housing authority in an area where 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. But the National Housing Federation and Government 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.

Last reviewed: November 20, 2023 by Daniel

Next review due: May 20, 2024

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