Local authority duty to devise personalised housing plans
Local authority duty to draw up a personalised housing plan based on assessment of applicant's need.
- Local authority duty to create a personalised housing plan
- Steps in a personalised housing plan
- When must the plan be created
- Connecting the plan to the assesment
- Requirement that steps are reasonable
- Reaching agreement with applicants
- Personalised housing plans for particular groups
- Local authority recording and sharing of PHPs
- Local authority reviews of PHPs
- Applicant challenges to PHPs
Local authority duty to create a personalised housing plan
Where a local authority is satisfied that a person is eligible and homeless or threatened with homelessness, it must draw up a personalised housing plan based on its assessment of their need. The plan should contain the steps to be taken to prevent or relieve the applicant's homelessness.
This duty only applies to homelessness applications made on or after 3 April 2018.
Steps in a personalised housing plan
any steps the applicant is to be required to take to find and retain accommodation for their household
the steps the local authority will take to assist the applicant in finding and retaining accommodation
The local authority may also include steps which it considers would be a 'good idea' for the applicant to take, but which the applicant is not required to take.
Taken together, these three sets of steps constitute a personalised housing plan(PHP).
Where there is a local connection referral
The authority responsible for devising the PHP is usually the housing department to whom the applicant applies.
Where a referral is made to another authority at relief stage the second authority must carry out its own assessment and PHP.
When must the plan be created
Connecting the plan to the assesment
The steps in the PHP must follow from the findings of the assessment.
A PHP might be unlawful if it was based on a flawed assessment.
The steps recorded will differ according to the applicant. While the Code envisages that local authorities will develop tools to address common issues, it also recommends 'genuine personalisation'. This is likely to result in 'significant variation in the staff time and other resources invested with each applicant' depending on their situation.
Requirement that steps are reasonable
The following steps in the applicant's PHP must be reasonable:
a step the applicant is to take on which the applicant and the authority cannot agree
steps that the local authority is to take
There is no requirement that steps which the applicant is to take and to which they have agreed are reasonable. However, no action can be taken against an applicant if they fail to cooperate with a step which is not reasonable.
Steps should be practical and realistic so that plans limiting accommodation searches to unaffordable areas or relying on services not available in the district are unlikely to be reasonable. The Code makes the point that reasonable steps vary according to the local authority.
Reaching agreement with applicants
The onus is on a local authorities to try to reach agreement with an applicant as to the steps to be taken both by itself and the applicant.
Authorities are advised to:
work alongside applicants
adopt a positive and collaborative approach towards applicants
make all reasonable efforts to engage cooperation
make every effort to secure the agreement of applicant to their personalised housing plans
The Code recommends that housing authorities encourage applicants to raise any concerns they have about their plan and work to resolve disagreements.
It is in an applicant's interest to ask for a step in the PHP to be amended if they believe it is not reasonable. This is particularly the case where it is a step theya re required to take, as not carrying out an action in the PHP could be seen as a deliberate and unreasonable refusal to cooperate.
Personalised housing plans for particular groups
The Code provides guidance on the approach a local authority should take to secure agreement to devising a plan for an applicant with certain particular circumstances.
Victims of domestic violence
Where there has been domestic violence, local authorities should be particularly sensitive to an applicant's wishes and respectful of their judgement about the risk of abuse, unless there is evidence to the contrary.
Local authorities should also allow sufficient time and space for the applicant to absorb and understand available options.
The Code strongly emphasises that in all cases involving violence, the safety of the applicant should be the primary consideration in looking at whether they stay in their home.
Where the applicant is owed leaving care duties, the local authority should consider their pathway plan when devising the personal housing plan and involve their personal adviser in framing the personal housing plan where the young person consents.
People with an offending history
The Code recommends that housing authorities and children's services work together before release to ensure that young people aged 16 to 17 and care leavers aged 18 to 24 do not leave custody without an accommodation plan in place.
The Code suggests that housing authorities work with the agencies responsible for probation (who 'must provide direct support to help people find accommodation'), as well as prisons and voluntary sector organisations to ensure their clients access suitable accommodation. The work suggested should be recorded in the plan.
Local authority recording and sharing of PHPs
Personalised housing plans must be recorded in writing and a copy must be given to the applicant.
Where there is agreement between the applicant and the authority, the authority must record the agreement.
Where agreement cannot be reached, the local authority must record:
why agreement could not be reached
the steps the authority considers reasonable for the applicant to take
the steps the authority will take to assist the applicant
The Code suggests that the record of the PHP could be combined with that of the assessment to provide a clearer response to applicants.
Where the PHP contains steps that the authority considers are a 'good idea' for the applicant to take, but which are not required, the PHP must make it clear which steps are required and which the local authority considers a good idea.
Local authority reviews of PHPs
Local authorities must keep the plan under review and notify any amendments to the applicant.
An applicant cannot face consequences for failing to take steps which have been deemed to be no longer appropriate on review.
The Code states that the timescales for performing reviews are likely to depend on particular circumstances, and specifically on the intensity of support needed by the applicant. Where an applicant is in occupation but threatened with eviction, the Code emphasises the importance of regular reviews.
A review should also be carried out in the following circumstances:
a plan was made at prevention stage and the applicant becomes homeless
there is new information or a change in circumstances, or the local authority becomes aware that the information on which the plan is based is inaccurate
the local authority believes the applicant is not cooperating with the plan
it has been decided that the applicant is intentionally homeless and so no main housing duty is owed.
The Code suggests that reviews could be carried out by telephone, email or video link.
If an applicant is a care leaver, their personal adviser should be involved in the review, particularly if there are issues relating to refusal to cooperate.
Applicant challenges to PHPs
If the applicant believes that the steps the local authority has proposed for them to take are not reasonable, they can challenge them through judicial review.
Last updated: 16 November 2022