Housing associations’ commitment to preventing homelessness through the Commitment to Refer

Suzannah Young, 15 December 2020

Homelessness is, and remains, a significant and growing problem in England. With Christmas fast approaching and winter planning underway, we feel it’s a good time to encourage housing associations, who haven’t already, to sign up to the Commitment to Refer and help end homelessness for good.

Housing homeless and vulnerable people has always been a key part of what we do as a sector. The pandemic has exacerbated the problems of many vulnerable people including those with mental health issues or those at risk from domestic abuse. And with the far-reaching effects of the coronavirus pandemic it is important now, more than ever, to continue to assist those who are homeless or threatened with homelessness with the help they need.

The Commitment to Refer aims to do just that. It is a voluntary housing association commitment we developed with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to refer residents to a local authority if they are homeless or threatened with homelessness. We know that in many cases housing associations already refer people at risk, and put in place tenancy sustainment support to prevent homelessness, but the Commitment to Refer allows us to make a positive, public statement to show our commitment as a sector towards ending homelessness.

So far over 200 housing associations have signed up, and after a survey in 2019 we found that the housing associations who signed up had either a positive (65%) or neutral (26%) experience of implementing it. Nearly half of the survey respondents (46%) could identify specific instances where a referral under the Commitment to Refer had prevented a person’s homelessness. You can read more about the survey results in our updated Commitment to Refer guidance.

Because of these positive results, and the acknowledgement that partnership working is key to preventing homelessness, we will continue to promote the Commitment to Refer and support housing associations to develop closer links with local authorities where possible. We are also keen to show how the Commitment to Refer works in practice, and is an important part in helping house vulnerable people. We’d be grateful if you could share examples of your experiences so that these can inform and inspire others. Please send your examples to homelessness@housing.org.uk.

So if your organisation hasn’t already, please consider signing up to the Commitment to Refer this Christmas.

How to sign up to the Commitment to Refer

You can sign up to the Commitment to Refer on our website, and read our updated guidance for housing associations for more information.

We also have a downloadable graphic that you can use on your website and social media to demonstrate your organisation’s commitment.

If you have any questions, please contact homelessness@housing.org.uk.