Duty to Refer - Information for professionals

A council officer providing welfare assistance

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Specified Public Bodies; Duty to Refer

The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 introduced a new Duty to Refer (DtR) requiring specified public authorities in England to notify Local Housing Authorities (LHA's) of individuals they think may be homeless or threatened with becoming homeless within 56 days. This duty came into effect on 1 October 2018.

Which public authorities have the Duty to Refer?

The following services are required to refer service users they consider may be homeless or at risk:

Prisons (public and private) Jobcentre Plus
Youth offender institutions Accident and emergency services provided in a hospital
Secure training centres Urgent treatment centres
Secure colleges Hospitals in their capacity of providing in-patient treatment
Youth offending teams Social service authorities
Probation services (including CRC) The Regular Forces (under duties to The Secretary of State for Defence under the legislation)


What are the specified public authorities required to do under the duty?

If a public authority considers an individual may be homeless or threatened with becoming homeless, the public authority will be required to ask the customer if they would like to be referred to a LHA of their choice. The public authority has a duty to make a referral, but only if the individual consents.

A number of Local Authorities in the North East have come together to establish a consistent approach to implement the DtR NE procedure. 

This includes a referral form for public authorities to use when referring clients who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness.

Referring organisations should be mindful that for certain individuals, it may be more appropriate for the client to approach the housing authority directly rather than submit a referral.

The DtR only applies to the specified public authorities in England and individuals can only be referred to a local housing authority in England. However, any other public authority not identified can also make a referral on a voluntary basis.

To make an application to Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council complete the Duty to Refer referral form and forward via email to our dedicated email address.

A referral does not replace a homelessness application. The referred person(s) will still need to complete a homelessness application form if they wish to seek our help. However, following a referral, we will contact the person(s) to begin enquiries.


What do public authorities need to know about the DtR?  

The DtR involves more than just undertaking the referral. Public authorities will need to understand what the risk factors are for people at risk of or experiencing homelessness. Gaining this understanding may require some further reading and training and the following resources and events may be helpful for you and your staff:

Code of Guidance - Homelessness Reduction Act - Provides guidance on how local authorities should exercise their functions relating to homelessness and threatened homelessness and apply the statutory duties in practice.  See Chapter 4 which focusses on the DtR.

NHAS Training Offer for Public Authorities DtR – National Homelessness Advice Service (NHAS) is funded to provide housing and homelessness advice for housing and non-housing professionals. NHAS has developed a webinar for public authorities to understand their obligations under the DtR and also offer a range of relevant materials. They can also deliver face-to-face training to public authorities on request.