Exhaust all options to house the homeless: our new guidance to councils

Monday, January 17th 2022

Please come in

The law gives local authorities more powers to accommodate people experiencing homelessness than they currently use. LCN's new guidance document reminds them of these additional powers they have, so they do all they can to accommodate more.

Local authorities have a legal duty to accommodate those they identify as homeless. The public health emergency of the Covid-19 pandemic has made the need to house rough sleepers even more urgent.

To respond to this at pace, the government started the Everyone In initiative, which offered councils additional support. In turn, councils have provided emergency accommodation to some 37,000 people who were sleeping rough, otherwise homeless or at risk of homelessness.

This unprecedented experience was important proof that a determined, funded approach can indeed end street homelessness for good - which the government aims to do by 2024.

To help local authorities provide accommodation whenever they can, the Law Centres Network has produced a short guidance document (available below to download) for people working in local authority housing and homelessness services in England.

Beyond the main provision in the Housing Act 1996, the guidance reminds them of six other Acts that empower them to accommodate even when HA1996 does not.

The guidance was drafted by housing solicitor Derek Bernardi of Camden Community Law Centre in London. The work was funded by the Centre for Homelessness Impact.

Nimrod Ben-Cnaan, head of policy and profile at the Law Centres Network, said:

"As the public health emergency recedes, we are keen to build on the successes of Everyone In. This includes clarifying just who can benefit from it and by what power, especially in the case of individuals and households that may otherwise have No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF).

"We have drafted this guidance in the absence of a national steer from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). It clarifies to council housing officers additional duties and powers they have to accommodate. This should make it easier for them do to so when they can."

Rob Anderson, head of practice and partnerships at the Centre for Homelessness Impact, said:

"As the What Works Centre for homelessness, our role is to accelerate an end to homelessness by supporting organisations and individuals to be more evidence-led; to understand and use date more effectively; and to have access to the best knowledge, skills and tools.

"Local Authority housing teams are the front-line of the mission to end homelessness, and extraordinary work continues to be done across the country to support people throughout the pandemic.

"In our discussions with local authorities, it became clear that some local authorities were unsure about their options to provide emergency housing when the normal housing duties may not apply, such as for those whose immigration status means they do not have access to public funds.

"We worked with the Law Centres Network to develop this guidance to ensure that Local Authority teams have at their fingertips a clear, concise and factual account of the powers they should consider when working with people at risk of homelessness beyond their usual housing duties."

For enquiries about this guidance, please contact Nathan FitzPatrick at the Law Centres Network.

Exhaust All Options - January 2022Download[149 KB]