As of April 2018, The Homelessness Reduction Act changed the homelessness duties for Three Rivers District Council to help all eligible applicants – rather than just those with a ‘priority need’.
It also adds the Duty to take steps to relieve homelessness: We will help all those who are homeless to secure suitable accommodation, regardless of whether they are ‘intentionally homeless’ or have a priority need. This means that all eligible households will be offered help to find alternative accommodation for themselves.
You can apply to Three Rivers District council for help if you’re homeless now or due to leave prison in the next 8 weeks and don’t have anywhere to stay on release.
The council must:
- carry out an assessment of your housing needs
- give you a personal housing plan that sets out the steps you and the council must take to find suitable accommodation
They should work with the probation service, community Rehabilitation Company or youth offending team to decide what support you might need to find and keep somewhere to live.
You can apply to any council for help but it’s usually best to apply to an area where you have a local connection. Being in prison in an area doesn't count as a local connection.
If you apply to an area where you don't have a connection, you can be referred to an area where you do. You can't be referred to another area if:
- An injunction means you can't go there
- You are at risk of violence there
You won't qualify for any housing or support from the council if you don't meet immigration or residence conditions.
You should qualify for temporary accommodation if the council has reason to believe you are homeless and in priority need.
You have an automatic priority need for housing if you:
- Have children who live with you
- Are pregnant or a partner you live with is pregnant
- are aged 18-20 and spent time in care when you were 16 or 17
You also have a priority need for housing if you're classed as 'vulnerable'. This means it's harder for you to cope with being homeless than other people in the same situation. You may be classed as vulnerable due to your time spent in prison.
The council should speak to agencies involved in your support and supervision. For example, probation, youth offending team or drug and alcohol services.
Three Rivers District council have a duty to provide longer-term housing if you meet the conditions for longer-term housing.
The council doesn't have to help with longer-term housing if they decide you are 'intentionally homeless'. This means you lost your home because of something you deliberately did or didn't do.
Examples of when you could be intentionally homeless include if you lost your home because you:
- were convicted of a serious offence
- didn't pay rent when you were in prison
If the council says you're intentionally homeless, you may be able to challenge the decision.
What area you can be housed in if you are homeless?
When you apply to Three Rivers District Council as homeless, the Housing Options Team will check to see if you have a local connection with its area.
You can establish a local connection, for example, by living, working, or having immediate family (usually a parent or brother or sister) in the area.
Time spent in prison in a specific area does not give you a local connection with the area where the prison is located. However, if you have no local connection with any area or if you are fleeing domestic violence, you can apply to any council in any area. The council you apply to have a duty to help you.
There may be restrictions placed on where you can live. For example, if an anti-social behaviour order (ASBO) says you can't go to a particular area and you may need to seek help from a different council.
Find out more about punishments for antisocial behaviour here: https://www.gov.uk/civilinjunctions-criminal-behaviour-orders
High risk prisoners managed by a multi-agency public protection arrangement (MAPPA) and may be required to live in certain areas.
Before you leave Prison
Before you leave you should liaise with a prison housing advice and resettlement service called Through the Gate. The service is delivered by charities including Shelter, St Giles Trust and Catch22.
A resettlement worker in prison can help you with things like:
- Referrals to suitable accommodation if you'll be homeless on release
- Dealing with a housing benefit claim while you're in prison
- Claiming universal credit on release
- Rent arrears or eviction
You can apply for the following grants before release:
- A £46 discharge grant
- Up to £50 for your first night's accommodation (paid direct to the housing provider)
You need a suitable address to stay at before you can be released on bail or home detention curfew (an electronic tag).
If you cannot live at your usual address, court or prison staff may refer you to the Bail Accommodation Support Scheme (BASS).
Contact Nacro's Resettlement Advice Service on 0300 123 1999 for further advice.
After you are released
You are allocated a probation officer in the area you'll be living in after release. Your probation officer manages your supervision in the community.
Your resettlement worker in prison works on your resettlement plan with your probation officer.
If you're released on licence, the conditions of your licence might mean you can't live in certain areas.
Probation teams can give you housing advice and may be able to refer you to a specialist hostel, supported housing or private landlords.
You probably need to claim universal credit unless you live or move in with a partner who's already claiming housing benefit.
You may also be able to get help through a:
- Discretionary housing payment
- Grant or loan from a local welfare scheme