The Supreme Court has recently announced a new approach which should make it easier for vulnerable homeless people to obtain council accommodation in the future. The decision has significantly widened the scope of ‘vulnerable’ applicants and asserts that councils assessing the needs of single homeless people should now compare them to that of an ‘ordinary person’ rather than another homeless person.
Prior to the ruling, local councils assessed potentially vulnerable individuals by comparing them to ‘ordinary homeless persons’. This led to cases where such individuals, suffering from issues such as depression and suicidal thoughts, were deemed not vulnerable because an ‘ordinary homeless person’ may be expected to suffer from those problems. The decision has shaken up the housing application procedure by widening the scope of the ‘vulnerability test’. As a result, local authority housing lawyers may potentially have to review thousands of previous applications affected by it.
In the case in question, the Supreme Court heard the appeal of three homeless individuals who were denied local authority housing under the previous ‘vulnerability test’ rules. By a majority of four to one, the Court found that one of these individuals, Patrick Kanu, should have been deemed a priority after it was established that he was suffering from ‘multiple physical problems as well as psychotic symptoms and suicidal ideation’.
Speaking after the judgement was delivered, Jon Sparkes, the chief executive of Crisis said: ‘This ruling represents a major step in tackling the injustice faced by so many single homeless people in England today. The reality is that anyone sleeping on the streets is vulnerable, and we applaud today’s ruling for making it easier for people to get help’.
In addition, Campbell Robb, the chief executive of homeless charity Shelter said: ‘At the mercy of an almost impossible test, thousands of vulnerable homeless people have been forced to sleep rough or been pushed into dangerous situations. Today’s landmark ruling should make this a thing of the past, and mean the law rightly acts to protect those who need it most’.
Whilst the decision has been met with widespread support, it has led to concerns regarding the already stretched resources local councils have in respect of housing. This has been exacerbated by the court’s assertion that financial pressures should not influence decisions on applications made by homeless people claiming to be vulnerable and in priority need. The next couple of years will therefore prove quite interesting in seeing how councils manage to adopt this new approach whilst dealing with the same amount of resources as before.
At Seatons, our team of highly trained legal professionals have a wealth of experience in housing matters and provide clear, easy to understand legal advice at low sensible fees. For more information on this area of law feel free to give us a call on 01536 276300.