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National Homeless Advice Service

What makes a good joint protocol?

Effective joint working protocols should have established criteria - local authorities can use these to assess their existing protocol, or as guiding principles for drawing up a new one.

Key criteria

To be effective, a joint working protocol should meet five key criteria:

  • social services are the lead authority, and this is made clear
  • section 20 of the Children Act 1989 is correctly stated in the protocol
  • section 20 requirements are applied in a lawful way
  • the protocol sets out how temporary accommodation is to be provided
  • the use of bed and breakfast accommodation for 16 and 17 year olds is expressly prohibited

Research carried out by Homeless Link, Young and Homeless in 2012, found that almost 50% of local authorities who responded felt that their local joint protocol was ineffective or had limited impact.

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Benefits of developing a protocol

The evidence suggests that many protocols have shortcomings, and that a substantial minority are not effective. On the other hand, experience suggests that the process of developing a protocol itself brings important benefits, such as:

  • achieving a shared understanding of each agency’s capabilities and organisation
  • understanding the extent of change that is necessary to work effectively in partnership
  • being able to create a framework against which subsequent performance can be measured, agencies objectives reviewed and working arrangements improved

In the best examples, local authorities have established a shared commitment to young people in crisis and a shared frame of reference for each other’s statutory duties.

They have developed realistic options for young people’s accommodation and support, and secured sufficient resources to provide these in both the short and long term. They also recognise that practices must be developed and refined over time.

For more information, see Shelter’s benchmarking guide for joint working between services.

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