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Homelessness

The Homelessness Reduction Act (HRA) came into force on Tuesday 3 April 2018. This is a new law that is changing how we help people who are, or may become, homeless.

The new law focuses on preventing people from becoming homeless and aims to reduce the need for people to go into emergency or temporary accommodation. It also aims to deliver better outcomes for single homeless people.

1. What this means for you

​Under the Homeless Reduction Act we are required to provide free information and advice to everybody who makes contact with the Homeless Prevention Service who is homeless or threatened with homelessness in the future. This includes advice on:

  • preventing homelessness
  • how to secure accommodation when homeless
  • the rights of people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness and the duties of the local authority (explained in the next section) 
  • the help available to people who are threatened with homelessness
  • how to access the help that is available

We are also required to provide specialist information and advice for specific vulnerable groups who may find themselves threatened with homelessness or without accommodation. This specific advice will be made available to:

If you think you might become homeless, you must get in touch with us at the earliest opportunity.

2. Prevention and relief duties

Prevention duty

If you are threatened with homelessness within 56 days you will be owed the prevention duty. If you are already homeless you will move directly onto the relief duty. During the prevention duty, we must take reasonable steps to prevent any eligible applicant from becoming homeless, regardless of priority need status, intentionality and whether they have a local connection. This can involve assisting you to stay in your current accommodation or helping you to find a new place to live. 

Personalised housing plans

We will carry out an assessment of your circumstances and your needs and will work with you to create a personalised housing plan. Your personalised housing plan will set out the reasonable steps that both you and we will take to prevent you from becoming homeless. Your plan will contain mandatory actions and recommended steps which could relate to your wider circumstances.  If you are working with other agencies they can be involved in your plan and it can be shared with them, with your consent. Your personalised housing plan will be reviewed on a regular basis with your housing officer.

If you deliberately and unreasonably refuse to cooperate with the required steps identified within your personalised housing plan then you could be issued with a notice which will bring the prevention duty to an end.

Relief duty

If we have not been able to prevent you from becoming homeless under the prevention duty, you will be owed the relief duty. During the relief duty we must take reasonable steps to help you to secure suitable accommodation. The relief duty lasts for up to 56 days and is available to all households who are homeless and eligible, regardless of whether they have a priority need. If you are a priority need household, for example you have dependent children or are vulnerable in some way, then you will be provided with interim accommodation whilst we carry out reasonable steps to help you secure alternative accommodation. Your personalised housing plan will be updated to reflect that you are now in the relief duty and new actions are likely to be set to enable you to secure suitable accommodation.

The relief duty can be ended in the following ways:

  • if we have successfully relieved your homelessness  and we are satisfied that you have suitable accommodation that has been secured for you and is expected to be available for at least 6 months 
  • if you accept or refuse a final offer of accommodation 
  • if you withdraw your application or we are not able to make contact with you
  • if you cease to be eligible for housing assistance
  • if you lose interim accommodation intentionally that has been provided to you under the relief duty 
  • if we have taken reasonable steps for 56 days to help you secure accommodation - if this has not been successful and you/ your household is in priority need and homeless through no fault of your own then you will be owed the main homelessness duty
  • if you deliberately and unreasonably refuse to co-operate with your personalised housing plan - if you are in priority need and not intentionally homeless, you will be made a final offer of a tenancy lasting at least 6 months but you will not be owed the full housing duty
  • if you refuse an offer of suitable accommodation which is expected to be available for at least 6 months

You will be notified in writing if the relief duty is going to end. If you disagree with a decision to end your relief duty you can request a review of this decision. 

3. Get help with homelessness

Contact us immediately if you think you are at risk of losing your home. You can contact the service by registering for housing advice.

Register for housing advice

Read the homelessness privacy notice (PDF, 420KB) to find out how your data is used.

Once you have registered you can log into the housing advice portal below:

Login - housing advice portal

A member of the team will contact you shortly, an appointment will be made with the appropriate officer and you will be advised of the documents and information that you will need to bring with you to this appointment.

If you have difficulties with completing the form, please contact us on 020 7641 1000 and we will be happy to help. Please call us between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday, and from 12pm to 5pm on every first and last Wednesday of the month.

4. Help and assistance for families

Shelter’s Homelessness Prevention Service for Westminster Residents 

Shelter are an independent housing and homelessness charity working in partnership with Westminster Housing Solutions and The Passage.  

Who is this service for? 

This service is for residents and people with a local connection to the City of Westminster who are at risk of homelessness. We aim to help residents with early interventions to prevent homelessness. 

Areas where we can provide advice support and guidance: 

  • help to keep you in your current home where possible 
  • help if you are being asked to leave your home for example family have asked you to leave or you have received a notice from your landlord 
  • advice and support to access alternative accommodation and around general housing options 
  • help if you are having issues with the affordability of you home for example rent arrears and other debt 
  • help with benefit applications and issues  
  • advice on overcrowding  
  • problems with the conditions of your home such as disrepair 
  • harassment and anti-social behaviour 
  • domestic or other violence which is impacting on your housing 
  • any other area that may put you at risk of homelessness, for example your physical/mental health, substance/alcohol use and gambling 

For people who are already homeless (for example rough sleeping or in Temporary Accommodation provided by the council) we would refer into partner organisations in Westminster or to a different team within Shelter. For people with a connection to a different area we will refer into services in the area where you do have a connection and help is available. 

How to access the service? 

Due to coronavirus, Shelter will not be operating any face to face appointments or drop-ins in Westminster. We will however continue to offer a full service remotely over the phone, email and internet. 

Currently the best way to access the service for yourself or to refer someone else is to complete the online form here.

Once completed a member of the team will make contact and arrange a telephone interpreter if needed. 

If you are unable to complete the online form or if you have any questions regarding referrals to the service please contact: Westminster@shelter.org.uk or call 0344 515 2048 9am – 5pm Monday – Friday. 

Additional help from Shelter

Trailblazer confidential support and advice service

Alternatively you may be able to use Westminster City Council's new Trailblazer Service if you are Westminster resident who is experiencing challenges, including:

  • difficulties with your landlord or tenancy
  • overcrowding in your home
  • family or relationship problems
  • paying your bills, finances and benefits
  • finding somewhere affordable to live
  • coping with stress or health concerns

If so, a dedicated personal advisor can work with you, to support you, and to help resolve any issues which you may be facing.

If you would like to talk to someone in confidence about how we can help you, please contact trailblazer@westminster.gov.uk

5. Help and assistance for singles

In line with government and Public Health guidance, The Passage will not be operating any face to face appointments or drop-ins in Westminster for the foreseeable future. The Passage will however continue to offer a full service remotely over the phone, email and internet.

We are working with partners to proactively support people experiencing or at risk of homelessness and are proactively calling on those most vulnerable to ensure they are supported. For those experiencing (or at risk of) homelessness, please contact us online and via phone to 020 7641 1000.

Read our coronavirus housing FAQ guide for further information.

Both the Shelter Outreach Team and The Passage will work with our Housing Solutions Service to help to secure sustainable housing solutions for anyone facing homelessness.

You will need to provide some of the following;

  • proof of identity
  • full birth certificates or passports for all the people in your household
  • documents concerning the loss of your housing, for example: letters from your landlord or the court informing you that you must leave
  • proof of income, for example: wage slips, benefit books, P45, bank statements and savings books
  • details of where you have lived for the last five years, such as: tenancy agreements, rent books or receipts for rent , postmarked letters, bills, bank statements, medical cards
  • if relevant, documents confirming: you are married or divorced, you have custody of children, you are pregnant

We must still consider certain tests under the 1996 Housing Act (as amended by the 2002 Homelessness Act) to decide whether we have a duty to house you. For those not in priority need, we still offer alternative practical support and additional services for rough sleepers.

Trailblazer confidential support and advice service

Alternatively you may be able to use Westminster City Council's new Trailblazer Service if you are Westminster resident who is experiencing challenges, including:

  • difficulties with your landlord or tenancy
  • overcrowding in your home
  • family or relationship problems
  • paying your bills, finances and benefits
  • finding somewhere affordable to live
  • coping with stress or health concerns

If so, a dedicated personal advisor can work with you, to support you, and to help resolve any issues which you may be facing.

If you would like to talk to someone in confidence about how we can help you, please contact trailblazer@westminster.gov.uk.

6. Homelessness Strategy

Westminsters Homelessness Strategy sets out a ten point plan to tackle and respond to homelessness in the city and aims to:

  • prevent more people from becoming homeless in the first place
  • improve our services and response when people do become homeless
  • meet the challenges ahead and have a homelessness system fit for the future

Learn more about Westminster's Housing Strategies.

 

7. If you see someone sleeping rough

If you see someone sleeping rough, please tell StreetLink London.

StreetLink exists to help end rough sleeping by enabling members of the public to connect people sleeping rough with the local services that can support them.

Last updated: 3 September 2020