Local authority duty to provide information and advice on homelessness
Local authorities have a duty to provide information and advice about homelessness.
Who provides the advice and information service
Every local authority in England must make sure that advice and information about homelessness and its prevention is available to anybody in its district.
The provision of advice and information about homelessness can be contracted out to other agencies such as charities and other local authorities. Where the service is contracted out, the authority may assist the provider by giving grants or loans and/or allowing it to use its own premises or making available furniture, other goods, and time of its own staff.
Advice and information must be provided free of charge.
How advice and information should be provided
The duty to provide advice and information is a general one and is intended to assist a very broad range of people, many of whom may not currently be homeless or threatened with homelessness, or who may not pass one of the other statutory tests. Advice and information may be provided online.
The Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities states that advice should be widely accessible as a universal service' and that appropriate provision should be made for 'people with particular needs, including those with mobility difficulties, sight or hearing loss and learning difficulties, as well as those for whom English is not their first language'. This could be used to argue that face to face or telephone services should be available, at least for those who have difficulty using the internet because of one of those factors.
The advice and information service should form part of an authority's homelessness strategy and its purpose is to assist people as early as possible to maximise the chance of preventing homelessness. The Code recommends that advice and information should enable people to take action themselves, and 'actively' encourage them to contact the authority in good time if necessary.
See the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017: duties & powers flowchart for more information.
What advice should cover
The advice available should cover information about:
securing accommodation when homeless
the rights of persons who are homeless or threatened with homelessness, and the duties of the authority under homelessness legislation
any help that is available from the local authority, or from other sources for homeless people and people who may become homeless (even if they don't meet the definition of 'threatened with homelessness')
how to access that help
The Code suggests that authorities work with other statutory and non-statutory agencies to develop appropriate provision. It also gives a list of advice areas, provision of which may help to prevent homelessness. Among others these include tenants' rights of occupation, what to do about harassment and threats of illegal eviction and rights to benefits and assistance with making claims.
Advice for specific groups
persons released from prison or youth detention
former members of the regular armed forces
victims of domestic abuse
persons leaving hospital
persons suffering from a mental illness or impairment
any other group that the authority identifies as being at particular risk of homelessness in its district. These groups are likely to appear in the authority's homelessness review and strategy as the Code recommends consideration within of 'which cohorts may be more likely to become homeless or be threatened with homelessness
Advice for care leavers
Housing options advice should be made available to young people preparing to leave care, and housing authorities may provide training to social workers, personal advisers and others who support young people to ensure that accurate information is available.
Advice for people with an offending history
Advice and information should be developed in consultation or jointly with offender management services. Authorities may also wish to consult directly with prisoners or people with an offending history in order to design materials. It is recommended that housing advice be given to people while in custody.
Advice for former members of the armed forces
Up to the point of discharge from the armed forces, the principal responsibility for housing information and advice is the Joint Service Housing Advice Office or Veterans UK. However, authorities with armed forces stationed within their districts are advised to consult with those services about how best to deliver housing advice to prevent veterans becoming homeless.
Reviewing the provision of advice and information
Authorities are advised to monitor their provision to make sure that it meets 'the needs of all sections of the community' and helps 'deliver the aims of their homelessness strategy'.
Applications made before 3 April 2018
The current Homelessness Code of Guidance was introduced on 3 April 2018 and the references here are to this Code.
For applications made before this date, the recommendations of the 2006 Code of Guidance should apply.
Last updated: 27 April 2021