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Wales: 'help to prevent' duty

This content applies to Wales

The homelessness prevention duty under Part 2 of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

Homelessness prevention duty

A local authority must help to secure that suitable accommodation does not cease to be available for the applicant and her/his household, if it is satisfied that the applicant is:[1]

The homeless prevention duty is owed to all eligible applicants regardless of priority need, intentionality or local connection.

It is described as a ‘help to prevent’ duty because the authority is not obliged to actually secure suitable accommodation for the household. Instead, the authority must take reasonable steps to help the applicant retain or secure suitable accommodation whilst having regard to the need to make the best use of its own resources. The authority is not obliged to make a Part 6 allocation offer or provide other accommodation.

Reasonable steps

Examples of interventions which can be used when helping to retain or secure suitable accommodation for an applicant are:[2]

  • mediation
  • grants or loans
  • guarantees that payments will be made
  • support in managing debt, mortgage arrears or rent arrears
  • security measures in abuse cases
  • advocacy or other representation
  • accommodation
  • information and advice
  • other services, goods or facilities.

The Code of Guidance for Local Authorities in Wales provides more details and a list of minimum interventions which all authorities should have in place.[3] It is by no means an exhaustive list, nor is it a prescriptive set of minimum interventions to be offered to each applicant. Authorities are expected to consider the most appropriate intervention or range of interventions on a case-by-case basis.[4]

The applicant is expected to co-operate fully in finding a housing solution. It is best practice for authorities to use a personal housing plan which details the reasonable steps to be taken by both the housing officer and the applicant.[5]

Best use of the authority’s resources

Reasonable steps to help to secure that suitable accommodation is (or remains) available to the applicant must be taken whilst having regard to the need to make the best use of the authority’s resources.[6]

Homelessness needs to be a high priority when targeting and allocating resources. Authorities should be aware of the potential cost savings at a corporate level of fully resourcing a dedicated homelessness prevention service. Redirection of homelessness budgets to other statutory services is discouraged and close monitoring of resources throughout the year is recommended so that applicants presenting towards the end of a financial year are not disadvantaged.[7]

Authorities should provide a personalised service to all eligible applicants. Someone with support needs might require additional support, and therefore resources. It is not appropriate for an authority to consciously allocate additional resources to applicants likely to be owed a final duty if they become homeless, at the homelessness prevention stage. However, when allocating resources, an authority may give some priority to people with a local connection or who have a clear need to move from their original area, provided they continue to meet their statutory duties to all applicants.[8]

Concurrent duty to protect property

The authority will have a concurrent duty to take reasonable steps to prevent loss or damage to the applicant’s personal property, if the applicant:

  • has a priority need for accommodation, and
  • is unable to protect her/his property.

See Wales: duty to protect property for more information.

Circumstances in which the duty ends

The ‘help to prevent’ duty will comes to an end if the applicant:[9]

  • becomes homeless
  • is no longer threatened with homelessness and suitable accommodation is likely to be available for occupation for at least six months
  • refuses any offer of accommodation, including an offer from a private landlord, which the authority is satisfied is suitable for the applicant and is likely to be available for occupation for at least six months.
  • is no longer eligible for help
  • was notified that a duty was owed because of a mistake of fact during the assessment
  • has withdrawn her/his application
  • is unreasonably failing to co-operate with the authority in connection with its homelessness functions.

Where an applicant is owed a ‘help to prevent’ duty and it subsequently appears that this has ended, or is likely to come to an end, because the applicant is now homeless, the authority must review its assessment.[10] If the applicant is homeless and eligible for help then a ‘help to secure’ duty will arise.

Refusal of suitable accommodation

The applicant’s refusal of suitable accommodation from any source will often result in the ‘help to prevent’ duty coming to an end if the applicant was notified in writing of the possible consequences of refusal or acceptance of the offer prior to refusing it.[11]

As well as being satisfied as to the suitability of the offer, the authority must also be satisfied that the accommodation is likely to be available for occupation by the applicant and her/his household for at least six months from the date the notice of end of duty is served on the applicant (or first made available for collection).[12] This means that even if an offer of suitable accommodation has been made but refused by the applicant, the authority will not be able to end the ‘help to prevent’ duty for this reason if the accommodation is not available at the time the notice of end of duty is issued.

Where the ‘help to prevent’ duty is lawfully ended following refusal of suitable accommodation, this will not prevent a ‘help to secure’ duty from arising if the applicant subsequently becomes homeless. Nevertheless, in some cases it will be prudent to accept an offer at the homelessness prevention stage and request a review of suitability within 21 days, rather than refusing the offer. This may be particularly appropriate where:

  • there is no identifiable priority need for accommodation and it is unlikely that an interim accommodation duty will be owed to the applicant if s/he subsequently becomes homeless
  • the applicant has a local connection elsewhere and the referral’s conditions are likely to be met, but the applicant wants to live in the area where s/he has presented
  • the applicant is unlikely to have the final duty accepted because the authority is likely to find that s/he does not have a priority need for accommodation or that s/he is intentionally homeless (where the authority has opted to have regard to intentionality).

See Wales: suitability of accommodation for more details about deciding whether accommodation is suitable.

Notice of end of duty

In all cases where a local authority decides that its ‘help to prevent’ duty has ended, it must send to the applicant a notice of end of duty. Dissatisfied applicants have a right to request a review of the authority's decision within 21 days.

Flowchart

A useful flowchart, with a visual map of all stages of the 'help to prevent' duty, can be found at the end of the Code of Guidance for Local Authorities in Wales.

Applications made before 27 April 2015

The provisions in Part 2 of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 apply to homelessness applications made to local authorities in Wales on or after 27 April 2015.

For the law applicable to applications made in Wales before that date, contact Shelter Cymru.

[1] ss.65-66 Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

[2] s.64(2) Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

[3] para 12.13 Code of Guidance for Local Authorities on the Allocation of Accommodation and Homelessness, Welsh Government, March 2016.

[4] para 12.9 Code of Guidance for Local Authorities on the Allocation of Accommodation and Homelessness, Welsh Government, March 2016.

[5] para 12.17 and Annex 17 Code of Guidance for Local Authorities on the Allocation of Accommodation and Homelessness, Welsh Government, March 2016.

[6] s.65 Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

[7] paras 15.19 to 15.29 Code of Guidance for Local Authorities on the Allocation of Accommodation and Homelessness, Welsh Government, March 2016.

[8] paras 15.25 to 15.26 Code of Guidance for Local Authorities on the Allocation of Accommodation and Homelessness, Welsh Government, March 2016.

[9] s.67 and s.79 Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

[10] s.62(9) Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

[11] s.67(4) Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

[12] s.67(5), Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

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