Supreme Court rules in favour of homeless 'vulnerability' challenge

Wednesday, 13 May 2015 - 2:09pm

After a landmark verdict from the Supreme Court today, people who become single homeless will no longer have to pass such a high threshold of vulnerability to be owed a duty of accommodation by local authorities.

Known as the 'Pereira test', under existing legislation, local authorities made decisions by assessing a person's vulnerability compared to 'an ordinary homeless person'. We know from our annual review of single homelessness support in England that 38% of people using homelessness accommodation projects have complex or multiple needs, 30% have drug problems, 23% have alcohol problems and 32% have mental health problems.

With the bar of a so-called 'ordinary homeless person' set so high, many people suffering a range of complex problems were being assessed as not being vulnerable enough, and denied vital statutory support. 

Backed by evidence from Homeless Link and our members, the charities Crisis and Shelter intervened in the case, with the court ruling in favour of their assertion the vulnerability of someone who becomes homeless should be assessed against that of an ordinary person. This will mean the classification of 'vulnerable' will widen, giving many more people who become single homeless access to housing help.       

Commenting, Jacqui McCluskey, Homeless Link's Director of Policy and Communications, said:

“We welcome today’s judgement which will ensure many more people are given access to the help they need to leave homelessness behind. Our members have told us about the range of complex needs experienced by the people they support, and the damaging impact of being turned down for help with their housing situation. We are pleased that this evidence has contributed to today’s decision.

“This will mark a significant change in the way homelessness applications are assessed. However, we need to prevent more people ending up in this situation in the first place and ensure that if they do, adequate support is available locally to help address their homelessness as quickly as possible and prevent them from falling between the cracks.

“The positive impact of this ruling will only be realised if local authorities have the resources to provide adequate levels of support, and the commitment and investment from central government to address the housing crisis and ensure there is an adequate supply of good quality, affordable homes for those most in need.” 

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Stephen Holland

Stephen served as our Communications Officer until January 2016.