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Focus on: local connection and people leaving prison

Posted on 14/09/21 in Housing Matters

Focus on: local connection and people leaving prison

A person leaving prison can make a homeless application to any local housing authority. If they do not have a local connection to that authority it must still accept an application, but it may be able to refer the person to another area where they do have a local connection.

Professionals who are supporting a person to make a homeless application should try to establish if:

  • the person has a local connection to the local authority they want to apply to
  • there is another area where they do have a local connection
  • there is any risk of violence in either area

Does the person have a local connection?

A person can have a local connection because of:

  • normal residence
  • current employment
  • family associations
  • leaving care
  • other special circumstances

Normal residence usually means living in an area for either 6 out of the last 12 months, or 3 out of the last 5 years. It must be residence of the person's own choice. Prison does not count as residence of choice.

Normal residence can include street homelessness or sofa surfing in the area.

A person leaving prison may have local connection with an area if they have close family there, such as parents, siblings or adult children who have lived in the area for at least 5 years. There is only a connection if the person actually wants to live in the same area as the family member.

A care leaver under 21 has a local connection to a local authority area where it owed them duties as a former relevant child.

Does the person have a local connection somewhere else?

The local authority can only make a local connection referral if they have accepted the person is homeless and eligible and:

  • has no connection to the area they have applied to
  • has a connection to another local authority

A local authority cannot make a referral if the person has no local connection to any area. That authority is responsible for their application.

There are different rules about where in the UK a local connection referral can be made depending on the stage of the homeless application.

Is the person at risk of violence or abuse?

A local connection referral cannot be made to an area where the person would be at risk of violence. This includes domestic abuse and other sorts of violence, such as gang violence.

A person should not be referred under the duty to refer to an area where they would be at risk.

Referrals under the duty to refer

Prisons and probation services have a duty to make a referral to a local housing authority if a prisoner or person on probation is homeless or at risk of homelessness in 56 days. The person must be allowed to choose which local authority they are referred to, regardless of local connection. 

A local housing authority cannot refuse to accept a referral on the basis that the person has no local connection. 

The person should be made aware that if they are referred to an authority where they have no local connection, the authority might not have a duty to help with long term accommodation. 

Further reading

Shelter Legal has more information on: