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Duty to refer

Some public bodies have a statutory duty to refer people using their services that they know to be homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless, to the local authority.

The following bodies have the duty to refer:

  • prisons
  • youth offender institutions
  • secure training centres
  • secure colleges
  • youth offending teams
  • probation services (including community rehabilitation companies)
  • jobcentre plus
  • social services
  • hospital emergency departments
  • urgent treatment centres
  • hospitals in their capacity of providing in-patient treatment
  • secretary of state for defence in relation to members of the regular armed forces

How to make a referral

One of our duty officers will arrange to send a copy of the duty to refer form to you to fill in and return.

Please note that the form is universal to all public bodies. Please complete it with all information your agency holds.

Alternatively, please email the referral to with the following subject line: 

DUTY TO REFER - Referral for [client’s name]

Please make sure the email includes:

  • the service user’s first name
  • the service user’s surname
  • the service user’s date of birth
  • the reason you are making the referral

Our team will check whether the client is already known to the service and has an allocated case worker. If so, the case worker will contact you directly.

If the client is not known to the service you will receive a guidance document and a referral form to complete and return to the same email address. Once this form is received, a case worker will contact the service user.

What happens when a referral form has been sent to the council

Once the service have received the completed duty to refer form, the following will happen:

If the customer is already homeless

The service will attempt to contact the customer within 24 hours (Monday to Friday). This excludes bank holidays. For any referrals received on a Friday, this may be the following Monday.

If the customer is threatened with homelessness

The allocated case worker will contact the client within 5 working days (Monday to Friday).


Please make sure that you have discussed the referral with your client and they know you have passed on their details. You should emphasise that referral is no guarantee that this contact will lead to accommodation being provided by us or any other local authority.

Local connection

Clients can be referred to any local authority they wish but they will be better served if they are referred to a local authority that they have a connection to. This can be discussed with them at the time of the referral.

Normally a connection is created by:

  • their current or former residence in the area
  • current employment in the area
  • close family having lived in the area for a long time