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Comparison of homelessness duties in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland

Published Friday, June 9, 2017

Comparison of the legal duties to tackle homelessness and assist people presenting as homeless in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland. In this devolved policy area, increasingly divergent approaches are emerging from the four nations.

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This briefing paper explains and compares the legal duties on local authorities and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) to assist people presenting as homeless in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Housing policy is a devolved matter and increasingly divergent approaches to homelessness are emerging. All four nations have legislated to introduce a legal duty to secure accommodation for certain homeless applicants but the type of applicant covered and assistance offered differs in each of the nations.

In Scotland there is now a statutory duty on local authorities to find permanent accommodation for all applicants who are unintentionally homeless or threatened with homelessness.

Wales has placed a statutory duty on local authorities to prevent homelessness for people threatened with homelessness, and to help to secure accommodation for all applicants assessed as homeless for a period of 56 days (this is known as the homelessness relief duty). After this period local authorities must secure accommodation for those unintentionally homeless and in priority need.

In England and Northern Ireland, the duty on local authorities and the NIHE is to secure accommodation for homeless households (and those threatened with homelessness) who are unintentionally homeless and in priority need.

New legislation set to come into force in 2018, the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, will introduce prevention and relief duties on English local authorities similar to those currently in place in Wales.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7201

Author: Alex Bate

Topics: Homelessness, Housing

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