presentation Homelessness Legislation

An introduction to the
homelessness legislation
13th July 2011
There can be a common misconception that people released from prison or
custody would qualify for rehousing if they presented themselves to a
Housing Options Team.
Unfortunately, this is not the case but is not always clear when they would
and when they wouldn’t.
I have tried to set out as best I can as much information as possible for
professionals that work with offenders to try and ensure as much
understanding as possible to assist this client group when looking at
rehousing options, in particular information surrounding relevant homeless
I am only speaking from a Dartford perspective but most LA’s work in a
similar way
Duties of LHA’s
• General duty – to ensure that advice and information
about homelessness and preventing homelessness is
available free of charge to anyone in the district.
• Main duty – to provide suitable accommodation for
households who are:
Homeless or threatened with homelessness
Eligible for assistance
In priority need
Not intentionally homeless
Relevant legislation
Part VII Housing Act 1996 – provides statutory underpinning for tackling
Homelessness Act 2002 and Homelessness (Priority Need for
Accommodation) (England) Order 2002 – requires LHA’s to develop
homelessness strategies and extended the priority need categories.
Homelessness Code of Guidance (2006) – The Code provides statutory
guidance on local authority housing and social services statutory functions
in respect of people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The
Code is issued by the Secretaries of State under section 182 of the Housing
Act 1996, and local authorities must have regard to the Code, by law.
In other words, this is ‘the bible for homelessness’
What the Code of Guidance says
In relation to offenders, the Code of
Guidance states the following:
A person who is vulnerable as a result of
having served a custodial sentence, been
committed for contempt of court or
remanded in custody, has a priority need
for accommodation.’
In determining whether an is vulnerable as a result of their
period in custody or detention, a housing authority may wish to
take into account the following factors:
•the length of time the applicant has served in custody or detention (although
authorities should not assume that vulnerability could not occur as a result of
a short period in custody or detention)
•Whether the applicant is receiving supervision from a criminal justice
agency e.g. Probation, Youth Offending Service or Drug Intervention
Program. Housing authorities should have regard to any advice regarding
their view of the applicant’s general vulnerability, but the final decision on the
question of vulnerability for the purposes of the homelessness legislation will
rest with the housing authority.
•The length of time since the applicant was released from custody or
detention and the extent to which the applicant had been able to obtain
and/or maintain accommodation during this time
Other guidance within the Code
• In many cases a housing needs assessment may have been
completed in respect of offenders by Probation, Youth Offending
Team, Prison Services, and Criminal Justice Team etc. Where such
assessment identifies an individual as needing help in finding
accommodation and judges the individual to be particularly
vulnerable and the applicant makes an application for housing
assistance, this information should be made available to the relevant
housing authority
• In addition to the question of priority need, when assessing
applicants in this client group, difficult issues may arise as to
whether the applicant has become homeless intentionally. Housing
authorities must consider each case in the light of all the facts and
circumstances. Housing authorities are reminded that they cannot
adopt a blanket policy of assuming that homelessness will be
intentional or unintentional.
What this actually means
What this means is that it is actually down to the
individual authority whether they deem someone as
vulnerable. Consideration is sometimes given at
Dartford to those who:
• Are ‘revolving door’ offenders. That is those who are in and out of
prison over a long period of time.
• Those that are coming out of a long term prison sentence
However when a local authority is considering an
applicants vulnerability, they should always apply
the Pereira Test
What is the Pereira Test?
The test to apply in all of these cases is that given in the
judgement of R V London Borough of Camden, ex Parte
Richard Pereira (1998).
Namely that the Authority must consider
‘whether the person is, when homeless, less able to
fend for himself than an ordinary homeless person
so that injury or detriment will result when a less
vulnerable person would be able to cope without
harmful effects’
What is considered by a LA?
Any medical or social problems, how severe are they? Although as an
officer, you are not bound to accept another professional’s opinion on
vulnerability as they are not best placed to interpret the legislation and
codes of guidance.
To make inquiries with all the professionals known to the applicant
especially with regards to their ability to manage.
Does their medical condition impede reasonable function, for example is
his/her cognitive abilities affected and is he/she reasonably mobile?
If the applicant is abusing drugs or alcohol, is he/she dependant or abusing
from choice? Has the abuse caused any secondary problems?
Is there anything in his/her circumstances, which will make it difficult to
secure alternative accommodation? (this is not a stand alone reason)
Is the applicant destitute? Most persons should be in receipt of funds or
eligible for them.
The Pereira Test cont
Will he/she be able to continue to access health professionals and support
network if roofless? Most people will have friends and or family in the area
who they can keep in touch with and a mobile phone or a care of address.
Most health or other agencies use drop in services or are able to make a
follow up appointments at the time of a visit.
Failing to be able to access medication, a necessary service or vital support
would cause injury and detriment and would therefore render a person
vulnerable under the Pereira test
This is a composite test. The decision should examine multiple health and
other problems singularly and then summarise the applicants overall
situation as a whole, as the overall effect could cause a person to be
vulnerable under the above test
Intentionally Homeless
What the legislation says
S. 191 (1) and 196 (1) - A person becomes homeless, or threatened
with homelessness, intentionally if he or she:
• Deliberately does or fails to do anything in consequence of which he
or she ceases to occupy accommodation (or the likely result of
which is that he or she will be forced to leave accommodation)
• The accommodation is available for his or her occupation, and
• It would have been reasonable for him or her to continue to occupy
the accommodation.
What the Code of Guidance says:
Some offenders may apply for accommodation or assistance in
obtaining accommodation following a period in custody or detention
because they have been unable to retain their previous
accommodation, due to that period in custody or detention. In
considering whether such an applicant is homeless intentionally, the
housing authority will have to decide whether, taking into account all
the circumstances, there was a likelihood that ceasing to occupy the
accommodation could reasonably have been regarded at the time
as a likely consequence of committing the offence.
What this means in reality
• A Local Authority should not automatically say that an offender is
intentionally homeless because they went in prison. They should
look at what the circumstances were at the time that before, i.e. had
a notice been served because of that applicant’s behaviour or rent
• Did the applicant know that if they committed that offence that they
would lose that accommodation?
• If there was arrears, did the vast majority of these accrue prior to
that applicant going into prison?
Local Connection
S.199 of the 1996 Act provides that a person has local connection with a
district because:
– he or she is, or was in the past, normally resident there, and that residence was
of his or her own choice; or
– he or she is employed there; or
– of family associations there; or
– of any special circumstances
If an applicant is eligible, unintentionally homeless, and priority need but
does not have a local connection, LHA’s can make referrals to other LHA’s
where the connection is met (unless there is a risk of violence).
Detention in prison (whether convicted or not) does not establish a local
connection with the district the prison is in. However, any period of
residence in accommodation prior to imprisonment may give rise to a local
connection unders.199
What happens next?
Homeless acceptances
• Might be offered temporary
• Should be made a permanent offer
Issues for LA’s in rehousing
• Exclusion zones
• Threats & harassment
• Certain offences
What you should know if duty not
• With any homeless decision you have the right to review
• As you can see, it is a very small client group that would actually
qualify for assistance under homeless legislation but there are other
organisations such as Porchlight that may be able to assist so you
could contact them for advice.
• Every LA should be able to offer advice on getting into the private
sector and most run schemes such as the Rent Deposit Scheme. It
is always worth booking an appointment with a Housing Advisor that
can offer practical advice and suggestions.
• You should always bear in mind that if a person is aged between 1824 they would only get a single room rent from Housing Benefit so
they would only be able to rent a room in shared accommodation
within the private sector. This is set to increase to 18-35 in the early
part of next year.
Preventing homelessness
• LHA’s overall aim regarding homelessness is to prevent it from
occurring in the first place.
• Each LHA will have a strategy in place which sets out how they will
prevent homelessness in their district.
• Homelessness strategies are published on LHA websites.
• They provide useful information about homeless preventative tools
that the LHA will use, for example:
– Rent deposits, bonds, deposit guarantees
– Tenancy sustainment arrangements whilst in prison
– Mediation to reconnect back to family
Marie Gerald
Housing Options & Private Sector Manager
Dartford Borough Council
[email protected]
01322 343018