Date: 19 NOVEMBER 2002
Title: HOMELESSNESS ACT 2002
REPORT OF THE PORTFOLIO HOLDER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES AND HOUSING
1. This paper is to inform members of the new homeless provisions contained in the Homelessness Act 2002, and to give them the opportunity to review and update current Council policy on homelessness, in response to the Act.
2. The current legislation for dealing with homelessness is Part VII of the Housing Act 1996. The fundamental principles of this Act have not been changed, and these have been summarised at Appendix 1.
3. The Government first suggested revisions to the homelessness legislation in last year’s Housing Green Paper and earlier this year, it issued its report “More than a roof – tackling homelessness”. The Homelessness Act 2002 and Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities were published in July.
4. Most of the Homelessness Act 2002 just amends or extends the Housing Act 1996, rather than introducing entirely new provisions. The notable exception to this is the introduction of a statutory requirement for all local authorities to undertake a review of homelessness in their districts, and to produce a homelessness strategy by July 2003.
5. The Act also introduces new priority groups in respect of young people, care leavers, victims of violence, and those leaving institutions such as the armed forces and prisons. It also amends the provisions for allocating housing to people on the Register/Waiting List. (Where local authorities have transferred their stock, “allocations” means “nomination to a housing association”).
6. The changes to the allocation of housing and the introduction of the Common Housing Register (CHR) will be the subject of a separate report in the new year, when that part of the Act comes into force and the Register is operational.
7. A summary of all the new provisions is given in Appendix 2.
8. It should be noted that strictly, even though it is now in use, the new Code of Guidance is still only a consultation document. A final version is expected early next year, although it is not likely to be significantly different.
9. The Council’s current homelessness policies are given in Appendix 3, and it will be seen that these are relatively few in number. They have only been amended slightly since their introduction in 1997, and on the basis that they have never been challenged through the review or appeals process, it is considered that they have generally worked effectively since their introduction. It is proposed that these policies should continue unchanged, except where the Act empowers or enforces a change. These are:
a) Unless the Head of Housing Services is satisfied there are exceptional circumstances, the Council will not exercise the power under s5, which that a local authority may secure accommodation for unintentionally homeless households who are not in priority need. The reason for this is that to exercise that power in full would have very substantial (B&B budget) financial implications, and could detract from established statutory and local targets.
b) to reinstate the provision of accommodation to homeless households up to the conclusion of any appeal brought against the outcome of a review, plus, where appropriate, 28 days.
10. There are no proposals to change officers existing delegated authority.
11. The problems and extent of statutory homelessness on the Island, and the Council’s use of B&B to provide temporary accommodation for the homeless has been well publicised. This report should therefore be read against a background of high levels of homelessness, limited availability of social housing, and the need to meet B&B reduction targets. Extensive information on homelessness and local needs is available in the documents included in the background papers listed at the end of this report. In particular, members are reminded of the Council’s Housing Strategy, the B&B Action Plan, and the Homelessness and Housing Advice Improvement Plan developed as a consequence of the Audit Commission’s Inspection of the Council’s homeless service earlier in the year.
12. There has been consultation with the Island Housing Associations on these provisions, as part of the development of the Common Housing Register and the planned new joint pointing system. These will incorporate the new legislative provisions.
13. While homelessness and B&B is a major revenue budget for the Council, approx £450,000 net, this paper is aimed at meeting administrative and legal requirements of the Act, so in itself it does not have financial implications.
14. Nevertheless, there are new responsibilities created by the Act, such as the new priority groups, and these will have an impact, as the number of homeless acceptances will increase. This in turn will have budget implications, but these were accounted for when setting the 2002/03 budget.
15. The legal implications arising from within this report are implicit within it, in that the Act imposes new legal duties/responsibilities on every local authority to provide homeless services in accordance with the Act. In order to ensure legal compliance, the Executive, as a consequence of the implementation of the Homelessness Act 2002, must formally approve the Council’s new homelessness policy.
16. To either approve the Council’s homelessness policy, as recommended, to approve it in an amended form, or not to approve it.
17. Failure to formally review and approve a homelessness policy as a consequence of the introduction of the Homelessness Act 2002, even if that policy has not radically changed, puts the Council at risk of being unable to defend appeals brought against review decisions.
shall be Council policy that: a) When determining homeless
applications, due regard shall be had to the Housing Act 1996, the
Homelessness Act 2002, all Regulations and Orders made thereunder, and the
Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities. b) i) the
Council’s homelessness officers and the senior homelessness officer shall
upon receipt of an application make all appropriate enquiries, make the
initial homelessness decisions, and issue the appropriate decision
notifications to applicants. ii) the Head of Housing Services shall be the designated
officer for reviewing
homelessness decisions under Sec 203 of the Housing Act 1996. iii)
If the Head of Housing Services finds on review there was an irregularity
in the original decision but is still minded to find against the
applicant, then the applicant will be afforded an oral hearing before a
member level Homeless Appeals Panel. c)
Unless the Head of
Housing Services is satisfied there are exceptional circumstances, the
Council will not exercise the power under s5, Homelessness Act 2002, to provide accommodation to
unintentionally homeless families who are not in priority need d) Temporary accommodation will be secured
for homeless households to whom a
duty under Sec 193, Housing Act 1996 is owed, for a period of 28 days
after the conclusion of any review, or if brought, of any appeal to the County Court
18. It shall be Council policy that:
a) When determining homeless applications, due regard shall be had to the Housing Act 1996, the Homelessness Act 2002, all Regulations and Orders made thereunder, and the Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities.
b) i) the Council’s homelessness officers and the senior homelessness officer shall upon receipt of an application make all appropriate enquiries, make the initial homelessness decisions, and issue the appropriate decision notifications to applicants.
ii) the Head of Housing Services shall be the designated officer for reviewing homelessness decisions under Sec 203 of the Housing Act 1996.
iii) If the Head of Housing Services finds on review there was an irregularity in the original decision but is still minded to find against the applicant, then the applicant will be afforded an oral hearing before a member level Homeless Appeals Panel.
c) Unless the Head of Housing Services is satisfied there are exceptional circumstances, the Council will not exercise the power under s5, Homelessness Act 2002, to provide accommodation to unintentionally homeless families who are not in priority need
d) Temporary accommodation will be secured for homeless households to whom a duty under Sec 193, Housing Act 1996 is owed, for a period of 28 days after the conclusion of any review, or if brought, of any appeal to the County Court
Housing Act 1996
DETR Report: “More than a roof – tackling homelessness”
Homelessness Act 2002
Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities
Homelessness (Priority Need for Accommodation)(England) Order 2002
Isle of Wight Council Housing Annual Report 2002
Isle of Wight Council Housing Needs Survey 2001
Isle of Wight Council Housing Strategy 2003-2006
Audit Commission Homeless & Housing Advice Inspection Report 2002
Isle of Wight Council Homelessness & Housing Advice Improvement Plan 2002
Isle of Wight Council B&B Action Plan 2002-2004
Appendix 1. Housing Act 1996, Part VII – Summary of the homelessness provisions
Appendix 2. Homelessness Act 2002 – Summary of the new provisions relating to homelessness
Appendix 3. Existing Homelessness Policy
Contact: Chris Binnie, Head of Housing 823061
Acting Strategic Director
Social Services and Housing
Portfolio Holder for
Social Services and Housing
1. The general principles of the decision process have remained largely unchanged since their introduction by the Homeless Persons Act 1977.
If a local authority receive a homeless application, that authority MUST decide:
(a) if the applicant is actually homeless, or about to become homeless;
(b) if they are in one of the specified priority groups
(c) If they made themselves intentionally homeless
If the authority is satisfied the applicants meet the criteria for (a) and (b) above, then they MUST provide them with temporary accommodation (usually B&B) while they investigate (c).
2. The priority groups referred to above are:
(a) families with children or pregnant women
(b) people who are vulnerable due to old age, mental illness, physical disability, or other special circumstances
(c) women subject to domestic violence
(d) some 16/17 year old and/or care leavers (this was a new group added in 1999)
(e) persons made homeless by fire, flood or other emergency
As a result of these priority groups, NO statutory homeless duty is owed to non-vulnerable single people or childless couples, between the ages of 18-59.
3. The ensuing decision can only be to either accept the application, or to refuse it on the grounds of being not homeless, not in a priority group, or intentionality. If the decision is to accept the application, then the duty to provide B&B continues for 2 years. If the application is refused, the duty to provide B&B ends.
4. The next aspect of the homeless process is that of local connection. If an applicant has no local connection with the authority’s area to which they have applied, then that authority is entitled to refer them to another authority where they do have a local connection. However, an authority MUST accept an application, and MUST decide on the issues listed in para 1. above, BEFORE making a decision on local connection. An authority CANNOT refuse to take an application, nor refuse to provide B&B, just because an applicant appears to have no local connection with it. The two exceptions to the local connection requirements are women in fear of domestic violence and applicants who have no local connection, anywhere at all.
5. Under s.199 of the Act, a person has a local connection if he/she:
(a) is normally a resident, or
(b) is an employee there, or
(c) has family associations, or
(d) has special circumstances
As this was undefined by the Act, the Local Government Association administers a “Homeless Local Connection Agreement”, last updated in October 2000, to which every local authority in the country subscribed. Para 4.1 of this agreement gave the accepted and agreed definitions of local connection:
(i) resident for 6 months or 3 of the last 5 years, or
(ii) employed in the area, in employment that is not of a casual nature (i.e. summer holiday trade), or
(iii) close relatives resident for 5 years, or
(iv) other special circumstances
This definition has now been absorbed into the new Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities.
6. The final aspect is review and appeals. Under s202/203, if an applicant is dissatisfied with the decision they have the right to request as review of the decision. This must be by an officer senior to the original decision makers, and who was not involved in the original decision. Regulations made under the Act prescribe the details of the review process.
7. Under s204, if an applicant is dissatisfied with the result of the review, then they have the right of appeal to the County Court. The appeal must be brought within 21 days of the notification of the review decision.
1. Sec 1-4 - All local authorities are required to undertake a review of homelessness in their districts, and publish a homeless strategy by
31 July 2003. This must be reviewed every five years. A separate Code of Guidance has been published in relation to the development and publication of homeless strategies. (Note: this item is outside the scope of this report, but preliminary preparatory work is being undertaken).
2. Sec 5 - For those not in priority need, primarily single people and childless couples, the duty under the 1996 Act was only to provide them with appropriate advice and assistance. Under s5, this must include an assessment of their housing needs, and gives and authority the power, but no a duty, to secure accommodation for them.
3. Sec 6 - For those accepted as statutorily homeless, the 1996 Act duty was to provide them with temporary accommodation (usually B&B in the first instance) for up to two years and then a discretionary extension, subject to review. S6 extends this period to indefinitely. In reality, this will have no impact on the Island.
4. Sec 7 - The duty to homeless households will cease if they accept an assured tenancy in the private sector. Previously only a Council or RSL tenancy ended the duty. Again this will have no impact on the Island.
5. Sec 8 - The duty to a homeless household cannot be ended, unless they have been advised that they have the right to a review of the suitability of the accommodation being offered.
6. Sec 9 - Abolishes the requirement for a homelessness household to make use of alternative temporary accommodation if it is available. No impact on the Island.
7. Sec 10 - Extends the duty in respect of violence, from those subject to or in threat of domestic violence, to those subject to ANY violence or threat of violence likely to be carried out. This includes racially motivated violence.
8. Sec 11 - Gives a local authority the power to continue to provide temporary accommodation (usually B&B) pending a review of decision, and if brought an appeal to the County Court.
9. Sec 12 – If a family with children is found to be intentionally homeless, such that and the local (housing) authority has no duty to provide them with accommodation, the authority must notify the relevant Social Services Authority of that decision, to give Social Services the opportunity to assess any duty it may have under s17 Children’s Act 1989.
10. Sec 13 – 16 - deals with changes to the allocation (on the Island, nomination) process, and are outside the scope of this report.
11. Priority Needs Order
The existing priority groups are listed in para 2 of Appendix 1. The Homelessness (Priority Need for Accommodation) (England) Order 2002, adds new groups to this list.
a) Additional 16 and 17 year olds, particularly those who are care leavers. The duty to those still in care remains with Social Services.
b) People who have previously been in the Child Care System. This includes people up to the age of 21 who have previously been “looked after”.
c) Victims of violence or harassment. This confirms and strengthens the duty owed under s10.
d) Military Personnel. Confirms a duty to those deemed to be vulnerable due to military service.
e) Former Prisoners. Confirms a duty to those deemed to be vulnerable due to serving custodial sentences.
Note: The above do not override the need to meet local connection rules described in item 5 on page 7 of this report, so for example there is only a duty to Islanders leaving prisons, not to people who have no connection with the Island leaving the Island prisons.
1. It shall be Council policy, when determining homelessness applications, due regard shall be had to the Housing Act 1996, all Regulations made thereunder, and the DOE/DOH “Code of Guidance on Parts VI and VII, Housing Act 1996 – “Allocation of Housing Accommodation and Homelessness”.
2. (a) The Homelessness Officers/Senior Housing officer (Homelessness) shall continue to make initial homeless decisions and issue the appropriate notification to applicants.
(b) The Head of Service (Housing) shall be the designated officer for reviewing homeless applications under Section 203 of the Act.
(c) Subject to approving (b) above, if the Head of Service (Housing) finds on review of an application, there was an irregularity in the original decision, but is still minded to find against the applicant, then the applicant will be afforded an oral hearing before the Homeless Appeals Panel.
3. That it shall continue to be Council policy to exercise its discretion to extend the provision of temporary accommodation until any review or appeal has been concluded.
It shall be Council policy only to exercise its discretion to provide temporary accommodation only up to 28 days after the completion of the review process.
It shall be Council policy not to exercise its discretion to provide temporary accommodation for more than 28 days following the initial homeless decision.