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.

This content applies to England

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

After the local authority has made an assessment of an applicant's needs, the local authority must try to agree with the applicant:[1]

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.[2]

Taken together, these three sets of steps constitute a personalised housing plan(PHP).[3]

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

A personalised housing plan should be devised after the assessment has been made.[4]

As with the assessment duty, the obligation to devise a personalised housing plan may run concurrently with other local authority duties.

Connecting the plan to the assesment

The steps in the PHP must follow from the findings of the assessment.[5]

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.[6]

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[7]

  • steps that the local authority is to take[8]

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.[9]

Steps should be practical and realistic[10] so that plans limiting accommodation searches to unaffordable areas or relying on services not available in the district are unlikely to be reasonable.[11] The Code makes the point that reasonable steps vary according to the local authority.[12]

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.[13]

Authorities are advised to:[14]

  • 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.[15]

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.[16]

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.[17]

Care leavers

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.[18]

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.[19]

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.[20] 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.[21]

Where there is agreement between the applicant and the authority, the authority must record the agreement.[22]

Where agreement cannot be reached, the local authority must record:[23]

  • 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.[24]

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.[25]

Local authority reviews of PHPs

Local authorities must keep the plan under review and notify any amendments to the applicant.[26]

An applicant cannot face consequences for failing to take steps which have been deemed to be no longer appropriate on review.[27]

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.[28] Where an applicant is in occupation but threatened with eviction, the Code emphasises the importance of regular reviews.[29]

A review should also be carried out in the following circumstances:[30]

  • 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.[31]

Care leavers

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.[32]

Applicant challenges to PHPs

If an applicant feels that the local authority's proposed steps are not reasonable, they can request a review of those steps.[33]

A challenge would have to be through judicial review.

Last updated: 17 March 2021

Footnotes

  • [1]

    s.189A(4) Housing Act 1996, as inserted by s.3(1) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

  • [2]

    s.189A(7) Housing Act 1996, as inserted by s.3(1) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

  • [3]

    See heading to s.189A Housing Act 1996, inserted by s.3(1) Homelessness Reduction Act and para 11.2 Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [4]

    s.189A(4) Housing Act 1996, as inserted by s.3(1) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

  • [5]

    para 11.18 Code of Guidance for Local Authorities, MCHLG, Feb 2018.

  • [6]

    para 11.19 Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [7]

    s.189A(6)(b) Housing Act 1996, as inserted s.3(1) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

  • [8]

    s.195(2) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.4(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 and s.189B(2) Housing Act 1996, as inserted by s.5(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

  • [9]

    s.193B(2) Housing Act 1996 inserted by s.7(1) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 and para 14.53 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MCHLG, Feb 2018.

  • [10]

    para 11.18 Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [11]

    para 11.20 and para 11.22 Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [12]

    para 11.21 Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [13]

    s.189A(4) Housing Act 1996, as inserted by s.3(1) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

  • [14]

    para 11.18, para 11.2, para 11.29 Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [15]

    para 11.36 Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [16]

    para 21.26 Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [17]

    para 21.31 Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [18]

    para 22.14, Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [19]

    para 23.4 Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [20]

    para 23.5 Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [21]

    s.189A(8) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.3(1) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

  • [22]

    s.189A(5) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.3(1) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

  • [23]

    s.189A(6) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.3(1) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

  • [24]

    para 11.24, Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities, MHCLG, Feb 2018. <

  • [25]

    para 11.31, Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [26]

    s.189A(9)(b) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.3(1) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

  • [27]

    para 11.34 Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [28]

    para 11.32 Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [29]

    para 6.34 Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [30]

    para 11.32 and para 14.22, para 11.33 and para 14.50, para 13.11 Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [31]

    para 11.35 Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [32]

    para 22.18 Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [33]

    s.202(1)(ba)(i) and s.202(bc)(i) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.9(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.