NRPF services must comply with the new duty to refer

5 November 2018

Referring to a housing authority when NRPF households become eligible 

On 1st October 2018, it became a legal requirement for social services in England to make a direct referral to a housing authority for assistance under part 7 of the Housing Act 1996 when a person they are supporting is homeless or is threatened with homelessness within 56 days. The new duty to refer is set out in the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, with information about implementing it included in the Homelessness code of guidance​ and guide to the duty to refer

The duty to refer ​will apply when a family or person with NRPF has been provided with accommodation​ under section 17 of the Children Act 1989, or the Care Act 2014, and becomes eligible for homelessness assistance. Such a situation may arise when a person or parent is granted leave to remain with recourse to public funds (which is the case for the majority of supported households), or when an EEA national starts working and establishes a right to reside under European law. At that point, the social worker or NRPF caseworker will usually issue the person with a notice that their temporary accommodation is due to end and must also make a direct referral to a housing authority. 

Duty to refer 
A direct referral to the housing authority o​f the person’s choice must be made that includes their name, contact details and the agreed reason for referral. The housing authority may request that additional details are also provided. The person's consent must be obtained unless the referral is necessary to safeguard a child or vulnerable adult. 

The code of guidance suggests that, where a person has support needs, it may be more appropriate to assist them to approach a housing authority directly rather than to make a referral (paragraph 4.12).​ 

The referral should be made as soon as possible after the person has been given notice to leave their temporary accommodation, as the housing authority may be able to take steps to prevent the person from becoming homeless. 
 
Responding to a referral
A referral does not constitute an application for homelessness assistance. A housing authority should always respond to any referral received by contacting the person directly, although the code of guidance does not specify a timeframe for doing this. A homelessness application will be triggered if information provided during this contact gives the housing authority reason to believe that the person might be homeless or threatened with homelessness. 

If the person does not respond to a direct contact, the housing authority should provide them with information about how they can access advice and assistance.
 
Complying with the duty to refer 
The duty to refer will not be a radical change in practice for many local authorities, as some level of assistance with making a homelessness presentation would need to be given to enable a smooth transition between services. However, signposting to a housing authority by providing the person with contact information will no longer be sufficient, and practitioners​ will need to establish where the person wants to be referred to and may need to make them aware of local connection rules. ​

Social services and NRPF teams can ensure that they are complying with the duty to refer by:
 
  • Following the Guide to the duty to refer and the Homelessness code of guidance.
  • Referring to the local connection rules in order to establish what duties a particular housing authority may owe to a person or family. 
  • Establishing appropriate referral and information sharing arrangements with the local housing department or district councils.
  • Approaching housing departments to establish referral arrangements in areas where out of area placements are commonly used for temporary NRPF accommodation.
  • Issuing termination of NRPF support notices in writing, so the person is able to correctly confirm their circumstances when they are contacted by the housing department on receipt of the referral.
Local authorities should also be aware of the other steps they are required to take to prevent and reduce homelessness when people are not eligible for assistance​ under Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996 due to their immigration status.

For more information about homelessness duties, practitioners can refer to: