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Making a referral - Professionals only

The following information is for professionals only. If you are homeless or threatened with homelessness, or are supporting a friend or family member please refer to our 'Homeless or threatened with homelessness' page from the related articles on the right of this page.

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Please refer to this information if you are a professional, you believe that a service user is homeless or threatened with homelessness and you would like to make a referral to a local housing authority.

This information is relevant to public bodies that are subject to the 213B Duty to Refer and other agencies who would like to make a referral but are not under a legal duty to do so.

213B Duty to Refer

What is Duty to Refer?

As of 1 October 2018, there is a legal requirement for some public bodies to refer service users to a local housing authority if:

  • • they are homeless or
  • • they are threatened with homelessness and
  • • the service user agrees to a referral being made

This is called Duty to Refer.

Public bodies must allow service users to choose which local housing authority they would like to be referred to. Service users must be advised of how local connection is defined before a referral is made.

Public Services with Duty to Refer

The following public bodies are under a duty to refer:

  • prisons
  • youth offender institutions
  • secure training centres and colleges
  • probation services including rehabilitation companies
  • Jobcentre Plus
  • social services authorities
  • accident and emergency services provided in hospital
  • urgent treatment centres
  • hospitals when providing in-patient care

The Secretary of State for Defence is also subject to the duty to refer in relation to members of the regular forces (Royal Navy, Royal Marines, the regular army and the Royal Air Force).

What if my agency is not under a duty to refer?

The Council would still like you to refer service users to the Housing Options team using the duty to refer system even if your agency is not under a duty to refer, if:

  • • they are homeless or
  • • they are threatened with homelessness and
  • • the service user agrees to a referral being made

How is local connection defined?

If a service user is at risk of homelessness, but is currently in accommodation, they can be referred to any local housing authority and that local housing authority may be under a prevention duty to assist, regardless of whether the service user has a local connection to that local authority's area.

If the service user is already homeless or is homeless that day, then a relief duty may be owed and local connection is a consideration.

To have a local connection to an area a service user must have:

  • been normally resident in that area for 6 of the last 12 months
  • been normally resident in that area for 3 out of the last 5 years
  • employment in that area on a permanent basis
  • strong family connections in the area, such as a close family member (mother, father, brother, sister or adult child) that has lived in the area for at least 5 years. In some special circumstances other family members or circumstances may be considered

Residence in an area has to be by choice. Time spent in emergency housing or a refuge will count towards a local connection, but time spent in prison or an institution does not count.

If a service user is street homeless or sofa surfing and has no settled accommodation elsewhere, and there is clear evidence that they reside in an area 'normal residence' may be established.

If the service user is fleeing violence or threats of violence and at risk, local connection requirements may be disregarded.

There are special rules around local connection for care leavers and members of the armed forces.

If a service user is already homeless and they are referred to a local housing authority in an area to which there is no local connection, that local housing authority can refer the service user onto another local housing authority in an area to which there is a local connection. A referral cannot be made if the service user is at risk of domestic abuse or violence in that area.

Can I make a referral to more than one local authority?

A referral should only be made to one local authority.

How to complete a Duty to Refer

To refer service users to Torridge District Council please use a refer system known as the ALERT system (opens in new tab).

You will be asked to create an account the first time you use ALERT. You can choose to create a generic account for your service or team, or team members can set up individual accounts. You will need to log on to make a new referral, and will be able to log on to check on the progress of referrals made.

ALERT is a free tool provided to all local housing authorities in England, Northern Ireland and Wales for making referrals and notifications, including the new 213B duty placed on specified public bodies, and all local authorities in Devon have agreed to use ALERT for ease of use for our partnership agencies and other public services.

Documents cannot be sent to Torridge District Council using ALERT. If you wish to send supporting information or evidence that you feel may be helpful to assessing a service users' needs please email these documents to Where possible, please use Egress when emailing the Council. If you do not have access to Egress you may wish to consider password protecting documents that you send. Documents cannot be accepted without you first completing an online referral. Any documents received without a referral will be deleted as the Council cannot hold documents without the service users' express consent.

If you are unable to use ALERT you may make a referral using a duty to refer (opens in new tab) form,  although the Torridge District Council's preference is for you to use ALERT. Completed forms should be emailed to the Council using

If you are looking to refer to any other local housing authority you will need to contact them direct to find out how to make a referral to them. You should be able to contact any local housing authority about a referral using the email

Useful links

MHCLG has produced guidance for public bodies that are under a duty to refer (opens in new tab).


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