Hospitals, jails and Jobcentres will have to refer those at risk of homelessness

Prisons and NHS Trusts are among the public sector organisations that will soon have a legal duty to refer people at risk of becoming homeless to a housing authority.

Heather Wheeler, the Minister for Homelessness, announced on Thursday that, for the first time, several public bodies will be required to assist the Government's efforts in reducing the number of people sleeping rough by intervening early.

The legally binding obligation will also extend to probation services and Jobcentres.

The new guidelines come ahead of the Homelessness Reduction Act, expected to be passed into law this April, which places legal duties on English councils to prevent homelessness.

They will be required to ensure the advice and information provided is tailored to specific at-risk groups, including care leavers, people leaving prison, ex-members of the armed forces and survivors of domestic abuse.

Heather Wheeler said: "Everyone should have a home to call their own and we have put in place strong protections to guard families and individuals against the threat of homelessness.

"Our reforms - putting prevention at the heart of everything we do - are designed for lasting change and to back this up we're investing almost £1 billion over the next four years to break the homelessness cycle once and for all."

The Government has pledged £72.7 million of funding to help councils deliver these changes when they come into force this April.

The increased preventative work brought about by the Homelessness Reduction Act is expected to result in substantial savings for councils in the long term.

Certain measures within the Act - such as personalised housing plans and bespoke prevention services - have already been trialled on Southwark Council in central London, who receive the third largest number of homelessness applications in England.

As a result, Southwark has eliminated its use of Bed and Breakfast accommodation for homeless families.