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Housing advice and homelessness

Housing Options

If you need help or advice on any housing issue within St Helens then we can help.

Whether you're a homeowner or tenant with problems with your existing home, or you are looking for a new home, we can point you in the right direction.  Further information is available in the Housing Options Booklet or you can contact us.

Every local authority (LA) has a duty to prevent homelessness, or to provide advice and assistance to people who are homeless or who are threatened with becoming homeless. We can provide you with the advice and information that you need, should you lose or be at risk of losing your accommodation. Here are some examples of scenarios in which we can provide assistance to prevent you becoming homeless:

  • Living with family members who have asked you to leave
  • Problems with your landlord or tenancy
  • Domestic violence
  • Violence or harassment from outside your home
  • Poor property conditions
  • Served notice to leave a property
  • Struggling with financial costs of your home
  • Relationship breakdown with a partner

As well as providing advice and assistance to homeless people, we also provide general housing advice and assistance to homeowners, tenants and landlords.

The Homeless Reduction Act, which came into effect on 1 April 2018, places new legal duties on English councils so that everyone who is homeless or at risk of homelessness will have access to meaningful help, irrespective of their priority need status, as long as they are eligible for assistance. The Act amends part VII of the Housing Act 1996.

FIVE KEY CHANGES IN THE HOMELESS REDUCTION ACT

  1. IMPROVED ADVICE AND INFORMATION ABOUT HOMELESSNESS AND THE PREVENTION OF HOMELESSNESS

A review of the previous homeless legislation found that the advice and information provided to single homeless people needed to be much more effective. Under the Homeless Reduction Act everyone in a local authority’s district should be able to access free information and advice on:

  • Preventing homelessness
  • Securing accommodation when homeless
  • The rights of people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness and the duties of the authority
  • Any help that is available from the authority other agencies and charities
  • How to access that help

Advice and information should be designed to meet the needs of particular groups; for example Care Leavers, people suffering with a mental illness or impairment and any other groups as identified as being at risk of homelessness.

  1. EXTENDED THE PERIOD THREATENED WITH HOMELESSNESS

Under the previous legislation, an applicant was only assessed as threatened with homelessness if they were likely to become homeless within 28 days. Under the new legislation this period is extended.

The extension aims to encourage local authorities to act quickly and proactively and allows local authorities more time to prevent homelessness.

  1. DUTY TO ASSESS ALL ELIGIBLE APPLICANTS CASES AND AGREE A PERSONALISED HOUSING PLAN

The first step in the amended framework is for LAs, once they are satisfied that someone is homeless or threatened with homelessness and is also eligible for assistance, is to carry out an assessment of the applicant’s case.

These assessments should include the circumstances that have caused homelessness and what housing the applicant needs, what accommodation would be suitable and whether the applicant and their household need support to obtain and keep accommodation.

  1. PREVENTION DUTY IN CASES OF THREATENED WITH HOMELESSNESS

If an LA is satisfied someone is threatened with homelessness and is eligible regardless of local connection, the LA must take reasonable steps with regards to the assessment to help them avoid becoming homeless.

Once triggered, the prevention duty will continue for 56 days until it is brought to an end via one of the prescribed conditions i.e. they accept accommodation that has reasonable prospect of being available for at least six months.

Applicants have a right to request a review of a decision to end this duty.

RELIEF DUTY IN CASES WHERE THE APPLICANT IS HOMELESS

Under this clause the LA must take reasonable steps with reference to the applicant’s assessment to help all eligible applicants to secure accommodation for at least six months, unless the applicant is referred to another local authority due to having no local connection to the local authority they have applied to.

Once triggered, the relief duty will continue for a further 56 days unless it is brought to an end via one of the prescribed conditions.

Additionally, all people who are found to be homeless and in priority need will be provided interim accommodation. Assessments on vulnerability to determine priority need will not change under the new legislation; however, it may require LAs working closely with agencies to complete these assessments.

Applicants who have a priority need and were homeless unintentionally, and whose homelessness has not been successfully relieved after 56 days, will be owed the main housing duty unless they refuse to co-operate.

Applicants are owed a lesser accommodation duty if they are intentionally homeless.

  1. PUBLIC BODIES – DUTY TO REFER (see 'Duty to Refer' section below)

The Duty to Refer came into effect in October 2018.

Effective prevention and relief of homelessness requires public bodies to work together.

Where a public body considers that someone they are working with is or may be threatened with homelessness, they must, and only with the person's consent, refer to the local authority homeless team.

The Homelessness Reduction Act 2018 places a duty on public authorities to notify a local authority of service users they consider may be homeless or threatened with homelessness (i.e. it is likely they will become homeless within 56 days).

Before making a referral, a public authority must:

  • have consent to the referral from the individual;
  • allow the individual to identify the housing authority in England that they would like the notification to be made to; and,
  • have consent from the individual that their contact details can be supplied so the housing authority can contact them regarding the referral.

The public authorities that are subject to the duty to refer are specified in the Homelessness (Review Procedure etc.) Regulations 2018. The public services included in the duty are as follows:

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

If you believe you need to refer a client to Housing Options then please complete the referral below and send to dutytorefer@sthelens.gov.uk and we will respond in due course.

Duty to Refer referral form

Rough sleeping is the most severe form of homelessness.  If you've seen someone sleeping rough or who may need our support in St Helens then contact us.  

We need the location, a basic description together with the date and time.  Alternatively report via Street Link

Telephone 01744 675150 - Housing Options & Advice Team (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Friday 9.00am to 5.00pm / Wednesday 10.00am to 5.00pm)

0845 0500148 - St Helens & Halton Council Emergency Duty Team (Emergency advice or assistance outside office hours)

Call in Person Housing Options and Advice Team, 2nd Floor Millennium Centre, Corporation Street, St Helens (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Friday 9.00am to 5.00pm/ Wednesday 10.00am to 5.00pm)

Write to us Housing Option and Advice Team, 2nd Floor Millennium Centre, Corporation Street, St Helens, Merseyside, WA10 1HJ

Email HousingAdvice+Options@sthelens.gov.uk