Maximising the use and effectiveness of Section 5 referrals
By: Shelter Scotland Published: December 2005
This guide provides an overview of best practice for making and taking Section 5 homelessness referrals.
- Maximising the use and effectiveness of Section 5 referrals (PDF 158.0 KB)
Section 5 referrals are the formal means by which local authorities (LAs) can ensure that homeless people are housed by registered social landlords (RSLs). Shelter has prepared a practice briefing to bring together examples of current ways of working in this new and emerging area of policy.
The number of homes let by RSLs has grown hugely in recent years, now comprising 40 per cent of all the social housing stock. However, while LAs let 28 per cent of all homes to homeless people, the comparable figure for RSLs is only 14 per cent, albeit a share of lets which has been rising.
Good practice on Section 5 referrals is not widely shared. There are some excellent examples of good working arrangements between RSLs and LAs but also examples where roles are confused.
Scottish Executive guidance makes clear that, when a section 5 referral is made, the only reason a RSL can reject the referral is if appropriate accommodation will not be available within a reasonable period, usually six weeks. Where LAs and RSLs cannot agree a referral then the decision can go to an arbiter.
Many LAs and RSLs have developed protocols which govern the referral process. At their best these protocols offer a clear steer to LA and RSL staff on both the housing context and the specifc ways in which referrals should work. However, there is also confusion as to how Section 5 referrals sit alongside existing nomination arrangements, which are used to house people from mainstream housing registers. In Shelter's view all homelessness referrals should be made through Section 5 while nominations should be used only for mainstream housing applicants. Nomination arrangements can take account of, but should not constrain, the number of section 5 referrals made to any one RSL.
There is also a great deal of variation in how the referral process works. Some LAs and RSLs have developed 'pre-referral' discussions which allow a LA to weigh up possibilities before a formal referral is made. While it is possible to introduce pre-referral dialogue with adequate monitoring, the danger is that the referral process is less transparent. It is also important to distinguish between relevant information which may be taken into account in considering how suitable a let may be, from that which can be a formal reason for a RSL rejecting a referral.
In determining whether a referral should be made or accepted, the availability of support is often key. It is important that LA 'floating support' teams can provide as full a service to RSL tenancies as to LA ones.
Overall, the briefing highlights some encouraging areas of practice which can be built on. Where Section 5 referrals are working well, they are based on clear working relationships between RSLs and LAs and on effective tracking and monitoring systems.