Policy Timeline

Policy context

Click on a date to view significant policy changes in that year

1977 - Housing (Homeless Persons) Act

 1977 Housing (Homeless Persons) Act, amended by 1996 Housing Act placing a statutory responsibility for providing accommodation or advising homeless people on local authority housing departments. The decision of whether someone is entitled to accommodation as well as advice is determined by their status as ‘vulnerable’.  Young people with drug or alcohol dependencies, ex-offenders and those who are terminally ill, are not defined as ‘vulnerable’.  Homeless people also have to meet the criteria of being in ‘priority need’, significantly those deemed to be intentionally homeless will not be assessed as in ‘priority need’.

1989 - The Children Act

The Children Act in 1989  placed a duty upon Children’s Services to safeguard and promote the welfare of a ‘child in need’ calling for both Children’s Services and Housing to respond to the needs of individuals.

1996 - Housing Act

An Act to make provision about housing, including provision about the social rented sector, houses in multiple occupation, landlord and tenant matters, the administration of housing benefit, the conduct of tenants, the allocation of housing accommodation by local housing authorities and homelessness; and for connected purposes.

2002 - The Homelessness Act

In 2002 the Homelessness Act  placed greater emphasis on working in partnership in order to prevent and tackle homelessness, diluting the previous focus on housing as the lone solution.  Significantly for youth homelessness the 2002 Act also defined all 16-17 year olds as being in priority need by virtue of their vulnerability because of their age.

2003 - Supporting People Programme

The Supporting People programme introduced in 2003   was revolutionary in bringing about a key change in how support services for homeless people were funded and therefore delivered.  Supporting People ring-fenced a range of funding streams into one pot to ensure support services were delivered to vulnerable people.  In 2010 the ring-fence was removed and is now part of the Formula Grant with decisions about how it will be spent at the discretion of local authorities.

2004 - The Housing Act

This Act replaces the existing housing fitness standard with the Housing Health and Safety Rating System. It introduces two new licensing regimes for private rented properties. There is a new requirement for sellers or estate agents to produce a home information pack before marketing any residential property for sale along with provision for an ombudsman scheme for estate agents. The Act makes other provision about housing, including changing the right to buy scheme, strengthening the rights of park home owners, extending the power of the Housing Corporation to give social housing grant to non-registered social landlords and enabling local authorities to secure occupation of long-term empty private sector homes. It also establishes tenancy deposit schemes to safeguard deposits paid in connection with assured shorthold tenancies. Finally, it requires local housing authorities to assess the accommodation needs of Gypsies and travellers in their area, and produce a strategy on how these needs can be met.

2007 - Local Authorities' preventative role

The Labour Government in 2007 directed local authorities to undertake a more preventative role by ‘addressing the wider causes of housing need’ rather than responding to situations of crisis.

2009 - Southwark Ruling

Most recently the Southwark ruling’ in 2009 determined that all homeless 16 – 17 year olds  should be classified as ‘children in need’ as outlined in the 1989 Children Act and as such receive a comprehensive assessment of their needs in order to provide appropriate support.

2011 - Coalition Government Changes

The coalition government removed the ring fence from Supporting People funding resulting in services previously funded from Supporting People becoming vulnerable to the funding cuts local authorities are currently implementing.

Homeless Link briefing on the changes:

No Second Night Out piloted in London during 2011,  is now being rolled out nationally with the aim of ensuring new rough sleepers are identified and provided with accommodation to eliminate the risk of a second night sleeping rough.  Download a “No Second Night Out” summary document here

The Homeless Transition Fund  provided by the Department for Communities and Local Government is a three-year grants programme providing £20 million nationally, with an anticipated £1 million coming to the North East.  The fund was set up as part of the Government’s rough sleeping strategy.

2011 - The Localism Bill: discharging the main homelessness duty

Government and youth homelessness:

The Localism Act received royal assent on 15 November 2011. Part 7 of the new Act is concerned with housing. Among a wide range of other changes to housing law, Part 7 significantly amends the statutory provisions relating to homelessness presently contained in the Housing Act (HA) 1996 Part 7. The homelessness amendments apply in both England and Wales. The Act will be brought into force, in stages, by commencement orders. The  primary effect of the homelessness amendments are that local housing authorities will be able to end the main housing duty (HA 1996 s193(2)) owed to applicants for homelessness assistance by arranging for them to be made an offer of suitable accommodation in the private rented sector (a ‘private rented sector offer’). The offer will bring the main housing duty to an end whether accepted or rejected by the applicant.

2012 - Cross Ministerial Working Group

Government and youth homelessness:

A Cross Ministerial Working Group chaired by Grant Shapps Minister for Housing is considering youth homelessness.

There is also a Homelessness and Support division within the Department for Communities and Local Government which has a team of advisers working with it, one of whom focuses on youth homelessness. If you would like to contact the Youth Lead for DCLG please contact Sharon Brown, YHNE Director 

2012 - Welfare Reform Act

Government and youth homelessness:

The Welfare Reform Act received Royal Assent on 8 March 2012. The Act introduced a new Universal Credit to replace previous benefits, limiting the total amount of benefit a person can claim. It also introduced a new size criteria in the social rented sector with the ‘removal of the spare room subsidy’ resulting in a reduction in Housing Benefit.  It also impacted on the way tenants receive benefit, in many cases, removing the option of having benefits paid direct to landlords.

2016 - Homelessness Change and Platform for Life

An overview of the Homelessness Change and Platform for Life Funds 2015 to 2017, which set aside up to £25 million capital funding for specialist housing providers to bring forward proposals for the development of tailored hostel accommodation for rough sleepers; and shared accommodation for young people who are homeless or insecurely housed to enable them to take on or continue employment, education or training outside of London.

2016 - Welfare Reform and Work Act

The Welfare Reform & Work Act introduced further substantial changes to the welfare system including lowering the existing household Benefit Cap, freezing Local Housing Allowance and removing entitlement to Housing Benefit for 18 – 21 year olds.

2016 - 20 Homelessness Prevention Trailblazers

£20m Trailblazer fund running in 2016/17, 20/17/18 and 2018/19 to establish a network of ambitious areas across England to work with all eligible households whether in priority need or not to prevent them becoming homelessness as early as possible.

2017 - The Homelessness Reduction Act

The Act places a new duty on local authorities to help prevent the homelessness of all families and single people, regardless of priority need, who are eligible for assistance and threatened with homelessness.

2019 - Rough Sleeping Strategy: delivery plan

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government – Rough Sleeping Strategy: delivery plan

The Rough Sleeping Strategy sets out the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government’s plan to halve rough sleeping by 2022 and end it by 2027. It includes a range of commitments, intended both to help those who are sleeping on our streets or currently at risk of doing so, and to lay the foundations for a system focused on prevention, early intervention, and a rapid rehousing approach to recovery.

This document sets out more information on the 61 commitments made in the strategy, and when we expect to see them delivered. It also sets out a few examples of the work the Ministry are already doing – including new projects which are underway, people who have been helped by their work, and new approaches to partnership working in local areas – in addition to information about the expert team they have put in place to achieve the mission to end rough sleeping.

Please click here to download the PDF.


Policy Timeline March 28, 2012


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