Priority need

Find out if you have a priority need for housing.

Help from the council

Your council must provide emergency housing if they think you might be homeless, have a priority need and meet immigration and residence conditions.

You qualify for longer term housing if the council decide you're in priority need and homeless through no fault of your own.

The council don't have to provide longer term housing if they decide you're not in priority need. They should still try and help you find a place to live.

Children live with you

You're in priority need if you have dependent children who usually live with you and are either:

  • under 16
  • under 19 and unable to support themselves - for example, because they're still in full time education

This includes your own children, stepchildren or other children in your household.

Separated parents

You won't usually be in priority need if your children live with their other parent even if they often stay with you.

Tell the council about any special circumstances which mean you share the care of your children, for example if you have a severely disabled child.


You're in priority need if you or someone in your household is pregnant.

Take confirmation of your pregnancy from a doctor or midwife to show the council if you can.

Care leavers aged 18 to 20

You're in priority need if you're aged 18 to 20 and spent at least 24 hours in care arranged by social services when you were 16 or 17 years old.

This includes time in foster care, in a children's home or in any other housing arranged by social services.

Aged 16 or 17

Most homeless 16 and 17 year olds are entitled to housing and support from social services rather than the housing department of the council.

The housing department should give you emergency housing if you need it while you wait for social services to decide what help and support you need.

Classed as vulnerable

The council may decide you're in priority need because you or a member of your household are classed as vulnerable.

You might be vulnerable because of:

  • old age
  • physical or learning disabilities
  • mental health problems
  • fleeing domestic abuse or violence
  • time spent in care, prison or the armed forces

You're not automatically classed as vulnerable if you fit into one of these groups

The council decides if you're vulnerable by looking at:

  • if you can cope with being homeless
  • how any disability or illness you have affects your daily life
  • what support you get from friends, family or other services
  • the risk of harm to you compared to the risk of harm to other homeless people

Supporting information from your GP, psychiatrist, social worker or other agencies can help. The letter should set out what harm you will suffer if you are on the streets.

Homeless because of fire or flood

You are in priority need if you're homeless due to an emergency such as fire or flood.

If the council say you're not in priority need

The council must give you a letter with reasons if they decide you're not in priority need.

You can ask for a review within 21 days if you think the decision is wrong.

You can sometimes challenge a refusal to provide emergency housing in court. A solicitor can tell you if you have a case.

You may qualify for free legal help if you're on a low income.

Last updated - 13 February 2020

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