Statutory homelessness

If you become homeless, you might expect your local authority to provide you with accommodation, if only on a temporary basis. However, not all homeless people are entitled to housing, and this varies depending on which part of the UK you live in. 

Even if you are entitled to housing, it may be some time before you are allocated permanent accommodation. In the mean time you will be housed in temporary accommodation.

There has been a divergence in the way each nation allocates housing to homeless people, particularly since devolution in 1999. Differences in the way in which homelessness statistics are gathered have also developed.

Who is entitled to housing?

In England, Scotland and Wales only 'statutory homeless' people are entitled to housing. This means you:

  • are 'eligible for public funds' (this will depend on your immigration status)
  • have some sort of connection to the area covered by the local authority, known as a 'local connection'
  • can to prove that you are 'unintentionally homeless' (that it is not your fault that you became homeless)
  • can prove you are in 'priority need' (the definition of which varies between the different nations and which has been abolished altogether in Scotland)

Only once you have passed these stringent tests will you be considered 'statutorily homeless' and only then do local authorities have a duty to house you. This is known as 'the main homelessness duty'

The changing homelessness duty

The 2011 Localism Act made significant changes to the homelessness duty in England and Wales. Local authorities are able to fully discharge their duty by offering a private rented sector (PRS) tenancy of 12 months, without the consent of the tenant. Previously the local authority had to offer a social home unless the tenant opted for a private tenancy.  

Single homeless people

If you are a single homeless person (i.e. with no dependent children) it is unlikely that you will be judged to be in 'priority need', unless you are deemed particularly vulnerable. Local authorities should still provide you with advice and information on homelessness and homelessness prevention.

Research for Crisis however, found that in practice this too often doesn't happen. Single homeless people who may be entitled to accommodation are not always given the opportunity to make a homelessness application. Many are also not provided with any meaningful advice or assistance and are misinformed about their entitlements.

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