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National Homeless Advice Service

Young people and local connection

When a young person makes a homelessness application, the local authority can in some circumstances refer them to another authority.

Legal duties of local authorities

It is unlawful for a local authority to refuse to accept a homelessness application from a young person who does not have a local connection with that authority.

Once a local authority is satisfied that a young person is homeless and eligible for assistance, it has a duty to ‘relieve’ the young person’s homelessness. Relieving homelessness means taking reasonable steps to help the applicant secure accommodation that will be available for at least six months. Where a young person has no local connection with authority they have applied to, the authority may refer the relief duty to another authority where they do have a local connection (but not if the young person would be at risk of violence in that other authority’s area). Alternatively, an authority may make a referral to another local authority when it has completed all of its inquiries if it accepts that the young person is owed a ‘full’ housing duty.

When does a young person have a local connection?

A young person has a local connection with an area if they (or anyone who might reasonably be expected to live with them):

  • are normally resident in the area (this must be residence of choice, and for at least six months of the previous 12, or three years of the previous five, and the relevant period will be up to the date of the decision, including any time spent in interim accommodation)
  • are employed in the area (this will not include casual work or study, but can include part-time or voluntary work)
  • have close family that have lived in the area for at least five years (this will usually be parents or adult brothers or sisters, but can be with other relatives if the young person has a particularly close relationship with them)
  • have other special circumstances that mean that they need to be in the area (for example, the young person needs to access medical or support services in the area that they cannot access in another area)
  • (for applications made on or after 3 April 2018), are owed a duty as a former relevant child. A connection on this basis will only last until the young person’s 21st birthday, or until they finish a course of education that was agreed in their pathway plan
  • (for applications made on or after 3 April 2018), were normally resident for a continuous period of two years, at least some of which fell before their 16th birthday, as a result of being looked after by a local authority. This connection will last until the young person’s 21st birthday.

See Shelter Legal for details on when a local connection applies.

How does referral work?

See Shelter Legal for:

Should a local authority always refer a young person if they don’t have a local connection?

The local authority must not refer a young person to another authority if the young person:

  • will be at risk of violence in the other area
  • has no local connection anywhere in the UK.

The young person should not be referred to another local authority if their only local connection with the other area is due to close family connections and they don’t want to live near those family members.

A referral also can’t be made if the applicant has any local connection with the area to which they made their application, even if they have a stronger connection with another area.

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Advising young people on local connection decisions

Advisers can:

  • challenge gatekeeping, where a local authority refuses to accept an application because the young person has no local connection
  • help the young person with a review if the authority does not accept that the young person has a local connection in the area. Any evidence of a local connection (for example, a letter from their employer or proof of a close relative’s address) can be enclosed with the request for the review or written submission
  • assist their clients in requesting a review if the young person does not want to go to the local authority area they are being referred to area”

For more information on requesting a review, see homelessness reviews.

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