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The duties local authorities owe to homeless people in England are contained in Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996 (as amended).  The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 (HRA) has, since 3 April 2018, placed a duty on authorities in England to:

  • Work to prevent homelessness for all eligible applicants who are threatened with homelessness, i.e. likely to become homeless within 56 days.
  • Work to relieve homelessness for all

Authorities only have an absolute duty to secure accommodation for households who are deemed to be unintentionally homeless and in priority need. If an applicant has become homeless unintentionally, the authority must assess whether they, or a member of their household, falls into a ‘priority need’ category.

These priority need categories are set out in section 189 of the 1996 Act and include, among others “People who are vulnerable because they are fleeing violence”.

Some organisations, including the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Ending Homelessness (APPGEH), have criticised the requirement for victims of domestic abuse to be ‘vulnerable’ before being deemed in priority need. In its report, A Safe Home, the APPGEH proposed amending the draft Domestic Abuse Bill (which is currently undergoing pre-legislative scrutiny) to, in turn, amend the Housing Act 1996, removing the vulnerability requirement. 

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