Welfare of children in intentionally homeless households

How local authorities should deal with families with children under 18 who have been found intentionally homeless.

This content applies to England

Safeguarding the welfare of children

Under section 11 of the Children Act, a local authority must have regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children when making a decision on homelessness.[1]

Their decision as to whether a family with children is intentionally homeless must be made entirely in accordance with the framework of questions contained in the Housing Act 1996. 

The welfare of children does not need separate consideration.[2]

Cooperation with social services

Where an applicant with children under the age of 18 is likely to be declared intentionally homeless, social services should be alerted. 

Authorities must have arrangements in place to ensure that all applicants are invited to agree to the housing department notifying the social services of the general facts of their case.[3] Even if the applicant withholds consent, information may be disclosed where the authority has reason to believe that a child is at risk of significant harm.[4]

Housing departments must cooperate with children's services in relation to children when asked to do so, as long as this does not unduly prejudice the discharge of any of their functions.[5]

Once social services have been notified, they need to carry out an assessment of the child's needs to establish whether the child is a child in need.

Social services must have regard to the government's guidance Working together to safeguard children.[6]

Services to a child in need can include the provision of accommodation for the whole family under section 17 of the Children Act 1989. Where a family has the financial resources to secure accommodation using its own resources, any children in the household are unlikely to be children in need.[7]

Code of Guidance – safeguarding

The Homelessness Code of Guidance contains information on how the housing departments should respond when working with children and their families in order to safeguard the interests of those children.[8]

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.

Last updated: 17 March 2021


  • [1]

    s.11(2) Children Act 2004; paras 1.30, 1.32 and 17.50 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [2]

    Huzrat v Hounslow LBC [2013] EWCA Civ 1865.

  • [3]

    s.213A Housing Act 1996;

  • [4]

    s.213A(4) Housing Act 1996.

  • [5]

    para 1.31 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [6]

    Working Together to Safeguard Children, DfE, 2015.

  • [7]

    R (on the application of Jalal) v Greenwich RLBC [2016] EWHC 1848 (Admin).

  • [8]

    paras 1.30 to 1.36 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018 (note that chapter 13, Cooperation in certain cases involving children, of the Homelessness Code of Guidance July 2006 is not replicated in the 2018 Code of Guidance).