Section 213B referral letters

17.09.2018

Letters are now available for council homelessness teams for when a section 213B referral is received from a public authority.

The duty on certain public authorities to refer people to council homelessness teams comes into effect on 1 October 2018.

I've uploaded two letters to the Resources section which homeless officers can use when a referral has been received but they've been unable to contact the applicant:

Local connection

When discussing the referral duty the most common question I've had from local authority staff is about the relevance of local connection.

It's clear however that where a relevant public authority believes a service user may be homeless or threatened with homelessness, the service user can ask the public authority to refer them to any local housing authority in England.

Also, the question of whether the person has a local connection has no relevance to the initial duties on councils, including the duty to make inquiries (take a homeless application) and the s.188 duty to arrange temporary accommodation.

Is a referral a homeless application?

Various legal commentators have understandably cast doubt on the assertion in the Code of Guidance (at paras 4.19 and 18.12) that receipt of a referral doesn't constitute a homeless application.

It's likely the courts will be asked to address this issue before long. In the meantime it seems that the safest course of action is to treat receipt of a s.213B referral as if it's a homeless application.

There are, however, bound to be cases where - notwithstanding the duty on the public authority to provide the person's contact details - it proves difficult to make contact with the person who has been referred.

The above two letters will hopefully help manage this problem by, respectively:

  • facilitating access where initial contact is proving problematic, and
  • warning the person that their case may be closed if they don't contact within a certain period of time.

Forthcoming LGA guidance

I understand the Local Government Association is to shortly publish some guidance on the duty to refer. The guidance will also include information about the existing duties that require cooperation between local authorities and other bodies in relation to homelessness.

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