Homeless or at risk of being homeless

Duty to Refer a homeless person to a local authority

This page explains the Duty to Refer a homeless person to a local authority, who can make a referral, what Watford Borough Council will do when they receive a referral and finally, how to make a referral.

What is the Duty to Refer and who can make referrals?

Under the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 (from 1 October 2018), the Duty to Refer (s213B) requires certain public authorities in England to refer people they think are or may become homeless to local housing authorities, like Watford.  When they receive a referral from a public authority, local housing authorities must then provide advice and support to help prevent the people referred from becoming homeless.

Who or what are public authorities?

The list below sets out the categories of public authorities required to make referrals to local housing authorities of people who are or may become homeless:

  • Prisons
  • Youth Offender Institutions
  • Secure Training Centres (3 centres in England for children up to the age of 17)
  • Probation Services (including community rehabilitation companies)
  • Job Centre Plus
  • Children's Services (County Council or unitary authorities)
  • Adult Social Care Services (County Council or unitary authorities)
  • Hospital Emergency Departments (A&E)
  • Hospital Urgent Treatment Centres
  • Hospitals providing inpatient care

The Secretary of State must also use the Duty to Refer regulations to refer members of the regular forces, that is, members of the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines, the regular army and the Royal Air Force. 

In making a referral to a local housing authority, the above public authorities must by law:

  • Have the individual's permission to making the referral to a local housing authority
  • Allow the individual to identify the local housing authority in England they would like the referral sent to
  • Have the individual's consent for their contact details to be supplied to the local housing authority so that they can contact them about their referral

What will Watford Borough Council do when it receives a referral from a public authority?

Review the referral form

The council will review the referral form it receives from a public authority together with any documents that are included with the referral.  If any documents are missing the council will request the public authority to provide these within 2 working days. 

Arrange to interview the person referred

Once the completed referral is received, the council will arrange to interview the person who has been referred within 2 working days.  The interview can be either face to face or over the telephone, depending on the circumstances of the person referred.  For example, if a person has been referred to the council by a prison, it may not be possible for the council to send a member of staff to interview them.  In this case, a telephone interview will be conducted.

Whether the interview is conducted face to face or over the telephone, the council will ask the person who has been referred a range of questions to find out their housing history, their eligibility to be helped, their income, their family details, and their housing and support requirements.  Under the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 (HRA17), the council must work with the person referred to put together a Personal Housing Plan (PHP) which sets out:

  • Why the need for housing advice and support has come up
  • Information on the home they need, eg, size of home and where
  • What support needs the person has to help them obtain the home they need

The PHP will also set out what tasks the council will do and what tasks the person who has been referred will do to secure a home to prevent them from being homeless.

Will temporary accommodation be provided by the council?

Not always.  Under the HRA17, the council has to provide temporary accommodation, if needed, to households who are in priority need.  Shelter provides information on priority need households, but briefly these are the following:

  • Pregnant women
  • Households with dependent children
  • All 16 and 17 year olds
  • All 18 to 20 year olds (other than students) who "at any time after the age of 16 , but while under 18, were, but are no longer, looked after, accommodated or fostered"
  • Any person who has lost their accommodation as a result of an emergency such as flood, fire or other disaster.
  • People who are vulnerable as a result of:
    • old age, mental illness or disability, physical disability or other special reason
    • having been looked after, accommodated or fostered and is aged 21 or over (not students)
    • having been a member of Her Majesty's regular naval, military or air forces
    • having served a custodial sentence, been committed for contempt of court or similar offence, or been remanded in custody
    • having had to leave accommodation because of violence or threats of violence from another person that are likely to be carried out

Not everyone the council assists under the Duty to Refer is a priority need case so not everyone will be provided with temporary accommodation even if they have nowhere else to go.  If the council decides not to provide temporary accommodation, the person referred has the right to ask for this decision to be reviewed.

How to make a referral under Duty to Refer?

Public authorities should download and complete the council's Duty to Refer form (DOCX 52kB) and email it together with the required documents to this email address: dutytorefer@watford.gov.uk

If you have any queries about the Duty to Refer and how Watford Borough Council will deal with such cases, please contact the Housing Solutions Team on 01923 226400.

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