What To Do If A Local Authority Refuses To Accept A Homelessness Application Without Proof of ID

This post is based on a real question which has been raised. The text of the question is set out below. I may edit it slightly but aim to leave it as close to the original as I can.

The  Question / Problem

If a person is in hospital and ready for discharge and unable to return home and needs assessing for temporary accommodation/ priority need via Housing and the person has no ID, no family support, no friends. Is housing required to support the individual under the equality act to obtain ID and worker make reasonable adjustments to support the person to get ID for the homeless application? Can the application be started with a 56 day process in place and ID gained during that process. Is it discriminatory practice not accepting the person without ID? I'm aware there is a duty via Housing to accept the person under the 56 day process whether the person is intentionally homeless or un-intentionally homeless . Thank you

The Answer / Solution

I have come across this problem myself where a Housing Department staff have suggested that they can't process a homelessness application without proof of ID or a National Insurance number. A common variant of this problem is where applicants are given a list of proof that they need to provide at or in advance of their first appointment Such requirements are unlawful. The council owes duties to assist homeless persons regardless of whether they have proof of ID.

Section 184 of Housing Act 1996 places a duty on councils to make inquiries into the circumstances of all applicants whom they have reason to believe are homeless or threatened with homelessness

The duty under Section 184 is not discharged until the inquiries have been completed and a decision letter, the "Section 184 Notice", has been issued setting out the council's decision as to whether the applicant is entitled to be housed.

Section 188 of the Act places a further duty on the council to provide accommodation for all applicants whom they have reason to believe are homeless and in priority need for housing.

Section 189A of the Act places a duty on councils to assess the cases of all applicants with a view to drawing up a Personal Housing Plan

Section 189B imposes the Relief Duty to provide accommodation for 6-12 months unless the duty is ended sooner.

None of these duties are qualified in any way by the applicant needing to provide any form of proof of ID or anything else. It is not for the applicant to prove their case. On the contrary, if the council consider that any information is needed they are under a duty to make inquiries so as to obtain it. The applicant should of course co-operate but it is the council who are under the duty. The council are acting unlawfully by refusing to process the homelessness application without proof of ID or any other proof.  If Judicial Review proceedings were issued I believe that the council would have no defence and the applicant would be entitled to an urgent Order requiring the council to process the application and provide temporary accommodation. This could be obtained over the telephone if the applicant faced imminent discharge from hospital and street homelessness.

I have prepared the text to be used in a pre action letter to be sent to a council in a situation like this warning that Judicial Review proceedings may need to be issued. It can be accessed via this link 

For more on how to write a Judicial Review Pre Action Protocol letter see this post.

Additional Points
The question asks if the local authority is under a duty to support the individual under the Equality Act 2010 to help them obtain ID. I think that the answer to this is "No". This Act does not give rise to such duties. The council are under a duty to provide accommodation under Housing Act 1996 and may be under a duty to provide further support under the Care Act 2014 if an applicant is unable to look after themselves. It might be discriminatory to refuse to assist a disabled person without proof of ID but in this context it would be unlawful to refuse to assist anybody because they did not have proof of ID.

I think that the 56 day process referred to is the Relief Duty owed to persons who are homeless or threatened with homelessness. It does apply to people who might be found to be intentionally homeless.


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