Applications to local authority contractors and social services

Applications for homelessness assistance to local authority contractors and applications to social services.

This content applies to England

Homeless applications to a local authority contractor

An application can made to another body or organisation where a local authority has contracted out certain functions under Part 7. This is usually to a private registered provider of social housing who may also have been involved in a large-scale voluntary stock transfer with the authority.

The functions that can be contracted out include:[1]

  • making arrangements to ensure that advice and information about homelessness, and the prevention of homelessness, is available free of charge within the authority's district

  • carrying out inquiries about and deciding a person's eligibility for assistance

  • making inquiries about and deciding whether any duty is owed to a person under Part 7, and, if so, what duty

  • assessing an eligible applicant's needs and agreeing a personalised housing plan

  • undertaking prevention and relief duties owed to an applicant

  • making referrals to another authority

  • carrying out reviews of decisions

  • securing and helping to secure accommodation to discharge duties under Part 7

Where the local authority has contracted out its homelessness functions, these are treated as being carried out by the local authority and liability rests with that authority.[2]

Any court action is taken against the local authority, except where the contractor has failed to fulfill the conditions specified by the authority in its contract, or where criminal proceedings are brought against the contractor.[3]

See the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017: duties & powers flowchart for more information.

Approaches to social services

Homeless applicants with a child under 18, or homeless applicants aged 16 or 17 years old may also have applied to social services under the Children Act 1989 or under legislation affecting care leavers.

Social services should assess the child's needs.[4] MHCLG/DfE guidance states that social services must secure suitable emergency accommodation whilst their needs are assessed.

Social services may request assistance from the housing authority to help discharge their duties towards children in need under the Children Act.[5] Housing authorities must comply with such requests in as far as they do not adversely affect the performance of their own duties.

Any duty owed to homeless 16 and 17 year olds under the Children Act takes precedence over the duties under homelessness, and the duty to accommodate and support usually falls to social services rather than the housing authority.[6]

The Guidance states that if a 16 or 17 year old is homeless or threatened with homelessness the local authority should make a referral to social services for an assessment under the Children Act. The local authority cannot refuse to accept a homeless application and should continue to provide accommodation until the outcome of the assessment is known.

Last updated: 13 March 2021


  • [1]

    Local Authorities (Contracting Out of Allocation of Housing and Homelessness Functions) Order 1996 SI 1996/3205, made under s.70 Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994; Chapter 5 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [2]

    Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994; para 5.11 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [3]

    para 5.9 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [4]

    s.17 and Sch.2 Children Act 1989.

  • [5]

    s.27 Children Act 1989.

  • [6]

    R (on the application of G) v Southwark LBC [2009] UKHL 26; para 1.2 Provision of accommodation for 16 and 17 year old young people who may be homeless and/or require accommodation, MHCLG/DfE, April 2018.