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More public bodies to be under duty to make referrals to housing authorities

Prisons, probation services, Jobcentres and NHS Trusts will be among the organisations that for the first time have a duty to refer persons at risk of becoming homeless to a housing authority, the Government has said.

The Homelessness code of guidance for local authorities, which was published this week, sets out how councils and public bodies must support the homeless or those at risk of losing their home under their new duties introduced by the Homelessness Reduction Act.

The Act places new legal duties on English councils to intervene at an earlier stage to prevent homelessness.

“Councils will now be required to ensure the advice and information they provide is designed to meet the needs of particular at risk groups including care leavers, people leaving prison, people who have left the armed forces, survivors of domestic abuse and those suffering from a mental illness,” the Ministry for Housing, Communities & Local Government said.

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In addition to new duties to refer those at risk of homelessness, the reforms will include:

  • providing free information and advice on preventing homelessness and the rights of homeless people, to all residents, including information tailored to the needs of particularly vulnerable groups
  • a new duty for those who are already homeless so that that local authorities will work with them for 56 days to help secure accommodation.

Minister for Homelessness Heather Wheeler said: “Everyone should have a home to call their own and we have put in place strong protections to guard families and individuals against the threat of homelessness.

“Our reforms – putting prevention at the heart of everything we do – are designed for lasting change and to back this up we’re investing almost £1bn over the next 4 years to break the homelessness cycle once and for all.”

The Ministry said £72.7m of government funding was being provided to help councils to deliver the changes. “In time, it is expected that the increased preventative work brought about by the Act will lead to substantial savings for councils.”

It added that it was working closely with the National Housing Federation to explore how housing associations could support the Act, including by making referrals, and working with the National Police Chiefs’ Council to develop a ‘test and learn’ project in Brighton & Hove focusing on homelessness prevention.

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