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Wales: ‘help to secure’ duty

This content applies to Wales

The ‘help to secure’ duty under Part 2 of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

‘Help to secure’ duty

Unless a local connection referral is made (see below), a local authority must help to secure that suitable accommodation is available for the applicant and her/his household if it is satisfied that the applicant is:[1]

Unless a local connection referral is made (see below), the 'help to secure' duty is owed to all eligible applicant regardless of priority need and intentionality. However, if the authority has reason to believe that the applicant may have priority need, this duty can run concurrently with an interim accommodation duty.

The 'help to secure' duty is triggered where the applicant either:

  • approaches the authority and is not referred to a different authority under local connection provisions
  • has been referred to the authority under local connection provisions and the referral has been accepted
  • has been assisted unsuccessfully under the homelessness prevention duty and the applicant is now homeless
  • was previously assisted under the homelessness prevention duty but this came to an end and the applicant is now homeless.

As with the help to prevent duty, the authority is not obliged to actually secure suitable accommodation for the household. Instead, it must take reasonable steps to help the applicant to retain or secure suitable accommodation whilst having regard to the need to make the best use of its resources. This includes help in retaining existing accommodation. The authority is not obliged to make a Part 6 allocation offer or provide other accommodation.[2]

Local connection referrals

The ‘help to secure’ duty does not arise if a local connection referral is made to another local authority in Wales or England.[3] However, a referral can only be made if the referring authority is satisfied that an applicant:[4]

  • is homeless and eligible for help
  • has a priority need for accommodation
  • is unintentionally homeless
  • has no local connection to the referring authority, and
  • meets the conditions for referral to another authority.

In any case, a referral cannot be considered until a homelessness assessment has been carried out. In addition, whilst investigating if the applicant meets the conditions for referral, the referring authority will continue to owe an interim accommodation duty,[5] and a duty to secure suitable accommodation pending acceptance of the referral by the other authority.[6]

The duties owed by the receiving authority will depend on whether the applicant is referred to a Welsh or English authority.

See Wales: local connection provisions for more information on:

  • establishing a local connection
  • conditions for referrals
  • rules applicable to referrals to and from another authority in Wales or England.

Reasonable steps

In many cases, the option of helping to retain existing accommodation will not be available at this stage because the applicant will already be homeless.

The focus of the authority's intervention will likely be on securing suitable alternative accommodation. The Housing (Wales) Act 2014 provides examples of interventions which can be used to help secure suitable accommodation for an applicant.[7]

The Code of Guidance for Local Authorities in Wales distinguishes ‘sustainable housing options’ from ‘crisis options’ such as night-shelters, sofa-surfing and Nightstop schemes. The following options may be more applicable to the ‘help to secure’ duty:[8]

  • supported housing
  • shared housing and houses in multiple occupation
  • accommodation arranged with friends and family
  • supported lodgings
  • social housing
  • private rented accommodation.

Best use of the authority’s resources

An authority must take reasonable steps to help to secure that suitable accommodation is available for the applicant and her/his household whilst having regard to the need to make the best use of its resources.[9]

Where an applicant’s threat of homelessness fails to be prevented under the homelessness prevention duty, an authority must consider the reasonable steps in the context of the applicant’s new situation and, on a case-by-case basis, consider the likely success and cost effectiveness of revisiting the same steps used under the homelessness prevention duty. The authority might be justified in removing some steps on the basis that they are no longer appropriate or are highly unlikely to be successful. For example, continuing to pursue family mediation when it is obvious that the relationship has broken down irrevocably.[10]

Circumstances in which the duty ends

The ‘help to secure’ duty will comes to an end in all the following circumstances.[11]

56-day time limit

The ‘help to secure’ duty is time-limited. If suitable accommodation has not been secured within 56 days of the applicant being notified that s/he is owed a ‘help to secure’ duty, the duty will end.

Satisfied that reasonable steps were taken

The local authority can also end the ‘help to secure’ duty before 56 days have elapsed if it is satisfied that all reasonable steps have been taken to help the applicant to secure accommodation. Authorities should be cautious when ending the ‘help to secure’ duty before the expiry of the 56 day period - they must not simply wait out the 56 days but must be satisfied that all reasonable steps were taken.

In both cases, the applicant must receive a notice of end of duty explaining that the authority no longer regards itself as being subject to the duty. The notice must include the reasonable steps identified in the assessment, the assistance offered to the applicant to pursue those steps and the reasons why those steps have failed. If an authority is unable to evidence that it used the 56 days to ensure that reasonable steps were taken, then it could be subject to challenge by the applicant.[12]

The authority must actively review the applicant’s case where it appears that the ‘help to secure’ duty has or is likely to come to an end because:[13]

  • 56 days have elapsed since the duty arose but suitable accommodation likely to be available for at least six months (excluding interim accommodation) has not been identified, or
  • the authority considers reasonable steps have been taken to help to secure suitable accommodation before the maximum period of 56 days has elapsed.

The purpose of reviewing the assessment at this stage is to establish whether a final duty is owed to the applicant.

See Wales: final duty for more information on:

  • who will be owed a final duty
  • what the final duty is and how it can be ended.

Acceptance or refusal of suitable accommodation

If the authority is satisfied that suitable accommodation is likely to be available for occupation by the applicant for at least six months, then the ‘help to secure’ duty can be ended regardless of whether the accommodation:

  • is available as a result of steps taken by the authority, or
  • was accepted or refused by the applicant.

In the case of a refusal, the applicant must have been notified of the possible consequences of refusal or acceptance. The applicant must also receive a notice of end of duty (see below). The period of six months for which the accommodation is likely to be available begins on the day the notice is served on the applicant (or first made available for collection).[14]

When a ‘help to secure’ duty ends in this way, the applicant will not be considered for the ‘final duty’ even if s/he has a priority need for accommodation and was unintentionally homeless from her/his former accommodation. Applicants should therefore be extremely cautious about refusing accommodation which is deemed suitable by the authority. In many cases, it will be prudent to accept an offer and seek a review of suitability if dissatisfied, rather than refuse the offer altogether.

If the applicant refuses accommodation deemed suitable by the authority while s/he is in interim accommodation, s/he must be served with a notice of end of duty informing her/him that both the ‘help to secure’ duty and the ‘interim accommodation’ duty have ended. If the applicant has requested a review of the decision to end the duties, the authority has the discretion to continue to provide interim accommodation pending a decision on review.[15]

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

Other circumstances where the duty will end

The ‘help to secure’ duty will also end when:[16]

  • the applicant becomes ineligible for help
  • a mistake of fact led to the duty arising in the first place
  • the homeless application is withdrawn by the applicant
  • the applicant unreasonably fails to co-operate with the authority.

In any of these circumstances, the applicant must be served with a notice of end of duty and will not be assessed for the ‘final’ duty.

Notice of end of duty

In all cases where a local authority decides that its ‘help to secure’ 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 secure' 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] s.73 Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

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

[3] s.73(2) Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

[4] s.80 Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

[5] s.68 Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

[6] s.82(1) Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

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

[8] para 13.14 Code of Guidance for Local Authorities on the Allocation of Accommodation and Homelessness, Welsh Government, March 2016.

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

[10] para 15.27 Code of Guidance for Local Authorities on the Allocation of Accommodation and Homelessness, Welsh Government, March 2016.

[11] s.74 Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

[12] paras 15.51 to 15.54 Code of Guidance for Local Authorities on the Allocation of Accommodation and Homelessness, Welsh Government, March 2016.

[13] s.74(2)-(3) Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

[14] s.74 Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

[15] s.69(11) Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

[16] s.79 Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

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