Priority need

Find out if you have a priority need for housing.

What is priority need?

You will be in priority need if you:

  • have children living with you

  • are pregnant

  • are aged 16 or 17

  • are a care leaver age 18 to 20

  • are homeless because of fire or flood

  • are assessed by the council as vulnerable

Why it's important

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

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

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 for other reasons, and they live at home.

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 to show the council if you can.

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.

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, a children's home, or any other housing arranged by social services.

Classed 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 domestic abuse or 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.

Priority need 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.

If the council say you're not in priority need

The council must write to you and explain their decision.

You can ask for a review within 21 days if you think it's 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.

Last updated: 5 July 2020

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