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New duty to prevent homelessness is likely to be introduced soon

The Government is looking increasingly likely to introduce a new prevention of homelessness duty on English local authorities, according to Andy Gale, Housing Consultant and former DCLG Practitioner Adviser for local authorities.

“All the public evidence suggests the issue is ‘when’ the change will happen and not ‘if’,” he told delegates to Locata’s Spring Housing Event in Manchester.

The new rules are likely to be based on current Welsh legislation and will mean local authorities will actually have two “prevention” duties:

  • To prevent a person from becoming homeless
  • To relieve homelessness for 56 days for those that are already homeless

“These duties are ‘blind’ to the question of whether the person might be in priority need,” said Andy Gale. “The prevention duty arises if the council is satisfied that the person is at risk of losing their accommodation within 56 days.”

“The relief duty arises if the council is satisfied that the person is homeless. The duty to relieve is not longer than 56 days, whatever the outcome for the person.”

The duty in Wales and likely to be mirrored in England is to take “reasonable steps” taking account the applicant’s circumstances and the authority’s resources. This is likely to give more groups in England, such as single homeless people, a legal right to early preventive help but the new duty is likely if based on the Welsh Model to be balanced by giving local authorities having much more flexibility when deciding how to meet and end any duty owed which recognises the housing supply problems in many areas of England.

“Any offer of suitable accommodation of any tenure or kind that is likely to be sustainable for 6 months or more ends the prevention or relief duty,” explained Andy Gale. “An applicant whose prevention or relief duty has ended due to refusing a suitable offer or wilful non-cooperation with the help offered cannot in Wales go on to be assessed as to whether the final accommodation duty is owed for being homeless and in priority.”

Andy Gale told delegates that they should start to prepare for the likely introduction of the new duty by piloting the new approach. “Make sure everyone receives a Personal Housing Plan (PHP) full of practical options and help,” he said.

A full copy of Andy Gale’s presentation is available for download here.

Andy Gale can also be contacted for more information and free related toolkits and self-help packs by emailing him using this link

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We provide these toolkits free for the use of local authorities as guidance only. The toolkits should not be used to reflect or form the basis of any Homelessness, Prevention and Advice software or system without the express permission of Locata Housing Services and Andy Gale.

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