What is the ‘duty to refer’?

This duty to refer places a statutory responsibility on public authorities in England to notify a local housing authority (LHA) of applicants they think may be homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless within 56 days.

Public authorities with a statutory duty to refer

The public authorities specified in the Homelessness Regulations 2018 include:

  • Prisons
  • Youth offender institutions
  • Secure training centres
  • Secure colleges
  • Youth offending teams
  • Probation services (including community rehabilitation companies)
  • Jobcentre Plus
  • Social service authorities
  • Emergency departments
  • Urgent treatment centres
  • Hospitals in their function of providing inpatient care

The Secretary of State for Defence is also subject to the duty to refer in relation to members of the regular forces. The regular forces are the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines, the regular army and the Royal Air Force.

Agencies signed up to Voluntary Duty to Refer:

  • Local housing providers
  • Greater Manchester Police

What constitutes a referral?

The minimum information referrals to a local authority must include:

  • The applicant’s name
  • Applicants contact details
  • The agreed reason for referral (e.g. that the applicant is homeless or at risk of homelessness)
  • Applicants consent to refer (verbal or written)
  • When making a referral, ensure all information is provided including consent

Public authorities role and responsibilities

Some public authorities will be required to provide accommodation for certain individuals as part of their own legal duties, e.g. children social services authorities with a duty to accommodate a 16 or 17 year old under the Children Act 1989.