Duty to refer

The aim of the Duty to Refer is to help people access homelessness services as soon as possible.

Who has a Duty to Refer?

A number of public bodies have a duty to refer people who are homeless or who are likely to become homeless within 56 days to the local authority for assistance. The aim of the Duty to Refer is to help people access homelessness services as soon as possible, to prevent them from becoming homeless or, if they are already homeless, to put an end to it.

The public bodies who have a duty to refer are as follows:

  • prisons;
  • youth offender institutions;
  • secure training centres;
  • secure colleges;
  • youth offending teams;
  • probation services (including community rehabilitation companies);
  • Job Centre Plus;
  • social service authorities;
  • emergency departments;
  • urgent treatment centres;
  • hospitals (in their function of providing inpatient care).

Whilst your agency might not be listed, we would still accept a referral through this route.

Who can I refer?

You can refer any customer/service user you've identified as being either homeless or threatened with homelessness.

You may know if a service user is sleeping rough and is already homeless. You may also know if your service user is homeless, but has somewhere to say (often known as sofa surfing) if they provide a 'care of' address or often changes their address.

How do I identify a family, couple or individual who is eligible for referral?

Identifying that a family, couple or individual is threatened with homelessness is less straight forward. The following are factors that could indicate that a service user may be facing homelessness.

This is when you should ask them about their housing circumstances.

  • problems with debt, particularly rent of mortgage arrears
  • problems with a landlord, being threatened with eviction or served notice to leave
  • being a victim of domestic abuse, or other forms of violence, threats, or intimidation
  • approaching discharge from hospital, the armed forces, or release from custody, with no accommodation available to them
  • having previously been in care, the armed forces or in prison

The customer/service user must give their consent to be referred. Whilst an individual may choose the local authority they wish to be referred to, they should be advised that if they are referred to an area where they have no local connection, they may be referred to another local authority where they do have a connection.

How do I make a referral?

To ensure consistency, the twelve local authorities in the North East region have agreed a common referral form that can be used for all referrals. To refer a customer/service user, please either use the https://northeastdutytorefer.org.uk/ or print the downloadable form (below) and email or post it back to the relevant council. The contact details for each of the North East Councils are included at the bottom of the form.

Where can I find referral forms and further information?

You can use the information below to submit a referral under the Duty to Refer:

What happens once I have made a referral?

When the team receives a referral, they will contact the individual and carry out an assessment.

If this assessment gives them reason to believe that the person may be homeless or threatened with homelessness, this will trigger a homelessness application.

If you are in any doubt, or if your customer/service user needs urgent housing assistance, please contact the Housing Advice & Information Team on 01287 612444.