Priority need

What is priority need?

You have an automatic priority need for housing when homeless if you're:

  • living with dependent children

  • pregnant

  • homeless because of domestic abuse

  • a care leaver aged 18 to 20

  • homeless due to a fire or flood

You could also be in priority need if you're 16 or 17, or assessed as vulnerable by the council.

This page tells you more about the different priority need groups and when you could count as vulnerable.

Why priority need is important

When you ask for help, the council must give you emergency housing if they think you might be homeless, in 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.

If the council say you're not in priority need

The council must still carry out a homeless assessment and drawing up a personal housing plan to help you find somewhere to live.

The council must write to you and explain why they don't think you're 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 children live with you

You're in priority need if you have dependent children who usually live with you.

Dependent children can include your own children, stepchildren, foster children or other children in your household, as long as you're responsible for them.

Children should count as dependent if they're under 18 and living at home.

An 18 year old can also count as dependent if they're in full time education or can't support themselves, and they live at home.

Separated parents

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

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

If you're pregnant

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

Take confirmation of your pregnancy to show the council if you can.

If you're homeless because of domestic abuse

From 5 July 2021, you have an automatic priority need if you are homeless because of domestic abuse.

This is a change in law. Before this date you had to show that you were vulnerable as a result of domestic abuse to be classed as priority need.

If you're at risk of domestic abuse in your home, you are automatically classed as both homeless and in priority need.

Find out more about what counts as domestic abuse and the help you can get.

If you're a care leaver under 21

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

This includes time in foster care, a children's home, or any other housing arranged by social services while you were 16 or 17.

Find out more about help and housing for care leavers.

If you're aged 16 or 17

Most homeless 16 and 17 year olds can get housing and support from social services instead of the housing or homeless team at the council.

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

When you could count as vulnerable

You or a member of your household might be classed as vulnerable because of:

  • old age or ill health

  • physical or learning disabilities

  • mental health problems

  • fleeing violence

  • time spent in care, prison or the armed forces

  • any other special reason

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

How the council decides if you're vulnerable

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.

Vulnerability during the coronavirus outbreak

You're likely to be vulnerable if you have a medical condition or illness that puts you at higher risk from coronavirus, especially if you've been advised to shield.

The council will confirm your condition with your GP or a specialist.

You are also at increased risk from coronavirus if you have a history of rough sleeping and are over 55 or have underlying health conditions.

The council must consider if this makes you vulnerable and in priority need.


Last updated: 5 July 2021

If you need to talk to someone, we'll do our best to help

Get help