Homeless applications cooperation between agencies

How local authorities can ask other agencies for assistance with discharging their duties towards an applicant.

This content applies to England

Assistance from other authorities

When discharging its duties an authority can ask for assistance from other local authorities (including Scottish authorities), housing associations and New Town development corporations. These other authorities must cooperate as is reasonable in the circumstances.[1]

This provision can be used, for example, where an applicant has special housing needs which another authority or housing association is able to meet, or in cases where an applicant is experiencing violence and applies to their own local authority where they have a local connection, but needs to move away.[2]

In order to facilitate cooperation, local authorities are encouraged to enter into reciprocal arrangements with other authorities by the Homelessness Code of Guidance .[3] Where a local authority enters a reciprocal arrangement on behalf of an applicant, the first authority cannot end its duty until the second has secured or identified accommodation.[4]

Cooperation in cases involving children

Where both children's services and housing authorities have duties, joint written protocols should set out clear, practical arrangements for providing services that are 'centred on young people and their families' and prevent young people being sent back and forth between authorities.[5]

Social services authorities have a duty to cooperate in cases where the applicant is a person with whom a child under 18 normally lives or might reasonably be expected to live, and there is reason to believe that the applicant may be:[6]

  • ineligible for assistance

  • homeless and may be so intentionally

  • threatened with homelessness intentionally.

The housing authority should not wait until it has established that an applicant is not eligible for assistance, or intentionally homeless. The duty of cooperation arises as soon as there is reason to believe that the applicant may fall into one of the above categories. The applicant should then be:[7]

  • asked to agree to the referral of the essential facts of her/his case to the local social services authority

  • if the applicant gives consent, the social services authority should be made aware of the facts and of the subsequent decision of the housing authority.

The same duty applies if the housing authority and the social services authority are one and the same authority (a 'unitary authority').

Where a family with children has been found intentionally homeless in a previous application to a local authority, housing and social services authorities must still cooperate. If the housing authority is unable to help, the duty to assist the family and children in need is with the social services authority.[8] Note that under the previous 2006 Homelessness Code of Guidance (para 12.6), a housing authority should continue to provide interim accommodation pending any disagreement about whether a 16 or 17 year old may be a child in need.

Under the Children Act 1989, social services departments can request the assistance of a housing authority to provide accommodation for a child in need.

Type of cooperation

Once the social services authority are aware of the facts, it may ask the housing authority to provide it with advice and assistance in carrying out its responsibilities under Part 3 of the Children Act 1989 (services owed to families with children in need). If it makes such a request the housing authority is under a duty to provide such advice and assistance as is reasonable in the circumstances.[9] Although the court has held that the Children Act does not impose an enforceable duty on social services to ensure that parents and children are provided with accommodation together,[10] there is a power to do so.[11]

Cooperation in out-of-area placements

Where an authority (the 'placing authority') places a homeless family outside its own area while it carries out its inquiries (an 'out-of-area placement'), it must notify the receiving authority, and include in its notification information on who is in the homeless household.[12] If there are children of school-age in the household, the local authority has a duty to make contemporary records of its decision making and reasons that clearly demonstrate how it has evaluated the likely impact of the out-of-area placement on the educational welfare of the children, and by reference to its records, show the specific process of reasoning by which it reached the decision that the receiving authority would secure the children's educational welfare. This is in order to comply with its duties under section 11 of the Children Act 2004 and ensure that the children's right to education under article 2 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights is not violated.[13]

In addition, as detailed above, where the placing authority has reason to believe that the applicant is intentionally homeless or not eligible and is likely to discharge its homelessness duty to the family, and has informed social services of the case, social services must cooperate with the housing authority. Where the family has been placed out-of-area, the placing and receiving authorities' social services should cooperate so that the needs of children in the homeless household are properly assessed.

Although the duty to carry out a child in need assessment falls on the receiving authority social services (the authority where the child is physically present), social services in the placing authority should not abandon any involvement it has with the family if this would be contrary to good social work practice.[14] This could mean that the placing authority social services continues with a child in need assessment it has begun, or offers its assistance to the receiving authority social services in completing its own assessment.

This duty of cooperation does not prejudice the pre-existing provisions on cooperation under section 27 of the Children Act 1989.

Judicial comment on cooperation

Issues of cooperation between departments have been considered in a number of court cases. The courts have expressed disapproval at the 'persistent and endemic' failure of authorities to cooperate: 'There is a particular need for meaningful and effective cooperation between the authorities; it is unacceptable for the authorities to simply stonewall each other while attempting to offload their obligations'.[15]

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: 11 October 2022


  • [1]

    s.213 Housing Act 1996.

  • [2]

    para 16.15 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [3]

    para 16.15 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [4]

    R v Bromley ex p Cafun [2000] WL 1675107.

  • [5]

    paras 8.23 and 8.24 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018; see also paras 1.30 to 1.36 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [6]

    s.213A Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.12 Homelessness Act 2002; s.10 Children Act 2004.

  • [7]

    s.213A Housing Act 1996.

  • [8]

    R v Northavon DC ex parte Smith (1994) 26 HLR 659, HL; para 21, Overview of the Homelessness Legislation, Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [9]

    s.213A(5) Housing Act 1996.

  • [10]

    R(A) v Lambeth LBC (2001) (2002) HLR 249, CA; R(G) v Barnet LBC 33 HLR 649, CA.

  • [11]

    R(J) v Enfield LBC [2002] EWHC 432; R (W) v Lambeth LBC [2002] Legal Action June 2002, CA.

  • [12]

    s.208(2) Housing Act 1996.

  • [13]

    R (on the application of E) v Islington LBC [2017] EWHC 1440 (Admin).

  • [14]

    R (on the application of AM) v Havering LBC and Ors [2015] EWHC 1004 (Admin).

  • [15]

    R (on the application of AM) v Havering LBC and Ors [2015] EWHC 1004 (Admin), para 4(ii and iii).