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Information and advice on homelessness

This content applies to England

Every local authority in England must make sure that advice and information about homelessness and its prevention is available to anybody in its district.[1]

Who provides the advice and information service

The provision of advice and information about homelessness can be contracted out to other agencies such as charities and other local authorities.[2] Where the service is contracted out, the authority may assist the provider by giving grants or loans[3] and/or allowing it to use its own premises or making available furniture, other goods, and time of its own staff.[4]

Advice and information must be provided free of charge.

Delivery of advice and information

The duty to provide advice and information is a general one and is intended to assist a very broad range of people, many of whom may not currently be homeless or threatened with homelessness, or who may not pass one of the other statutory tests.[5] Advice and information may be provided online.[6]

The Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities states that advice should be widely accessible as a universal service' and that appropriate provision should be made for 'people with particular needs, including those with mobility difficulties, sight or hearing loss and learning difficulties, as well as those for whom English is not their first language'.[7] This could be used to argue that face to face or telephone services should be available, at least for those who have difficulty using the internet because of one of those factors.

The advice and information service should form part of an authority's homelessness strategy[8] and its purpose is to assist people as early as possible to maximise the chance of preventing homelessness. The Code recommends that advice and information should enable people to take action themselves, and 'actively' encourage them to contact the authority in good time if necessary.[9]

Content of advice

The advice available should cover information about:[10]

  • preventing homelessness
  • securing accommodation when homeless
  • the rights of persons who are homeless or threatened with homelessness, and the duties of the authority under homelessness legislation
  • any help that is available from the local authority, or from other sources for homeless people and people who may become homeless (even if they don't meet the definition of 'threatened with homelessness').
  • how to access that help.

The Code suggests that authorities work with other statutory and non-statutory agencies to develop appropriate provision.[11] It also gives a list of advice areas, provision of which may help to prevent homelessness. Among others these include tenants' rights of occupation, what to do about harassment and threats of illegal eviction and rights to benefits and assistance with making claims.[12]

Intended audience of advice

Advice services should be available to any person in the district.[13] However, particular attention should be given when they are designed so that they meet the needs of:[14]

  • persons released from prison or youth detention
  • care leavers
  • former members of the regular armed forces
  • victims of domestic abuse
  • persons leaving hospital
  • persons suffering from a mental illness or impairment
  • any other group that the authority identifies as being at particular risk of homelessness in its district. These groups are likely to appear in the authority's homelessness review and strategy as the Code recommends consideration within of 'which cohorts may be more likely to become homeless or be threatened with homelessness.[15]

Framing the duty for people in specific groups

The Code recommends how the information and advice duty should be framed for people in particular situations:

Care leavers

Housing options advice should be made available to young people preparing to leave care, and housing authorities may provide training to social workers, personal advisers and others who support young people to ensure that accurate information is available.[16]

People with an offending history

Advice and information should be developed in consultation or jointly with offender management services. Authorities may also wish to consult directly with prisoners or people with an offending history in order to design materials.[17] It is recommended that housing advice be given to people while in custody.[18]

Former members of the armed forces

Up to the point of discharge from the armed forces, the principal responsibility for housing information and advice is the Joint Service Housing Advice Office or Veterans UK. However, authorities with armed forces stationed within their districts are advised to consult with those services about how best to deliver housing advice to prevent veterans becoming homeless.[19]

Reviewing the provision of advice and information

Authorities are advised to monitor their provision to make sure that it meets 'the needs of all sections of the community' and helps 'deliver the aims of their homelessness strategy'.[20]

Applications made before 3 April 2018

The current Homelessness Code of Guidance was introduced on 3 April 2018 and the references on this page are to this Code. For applications made before this date, the recommendations of the 2006 Code of Guidance should apply.

[1] s.179 Housing Act 1996 as substituted by s.2 Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[2] s.179(1) Housing Act 1996 as substituted by s.2 Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 and Local Authorities (Contracting Out of Allocation of Housing and Homelessness Functions) Order 1996 SI 1996/3205.

[3] s.179(3) Housing Act 1996 as substituted by s.2 Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[4] s.179(4) Housing Act 1996 as substituted by s.2 Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[5] s.179(1) Housing Act 1996 as substituted by s.2 Homelessness Reduction Act 2017; para 3.1 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[6] para 11.13 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[7] para 3.6 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[8] para 2.30 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[9] para 3.4 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[10] s.179(1)(a) - s.179(1)(e), Housing Act 1996 as substituted by s.2 Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[11] para 3.6 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[12] para 3.7 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[13] s.179(1), Housing Act 1996 as substituted by s.2 Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[14] s.179(2), Housing Act 1996 as substituted by s.2 Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[15] para 2.16, Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[16] para 22.9 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[17] para 23.9 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[18] para 23.10 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[19] para 24.6 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[20] para 3.10, Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

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