What is priority need?

You have a health condition or disability

You have a priority need if you're vulnerable because of a disability or health condition.

The council decides if you're vulnerable.

You need to show you would be much more vulnerable than most people if you were homeless, and likely to suffer more harm in the same situation.

You could be vulnerable and in priority need if you or someone in your household has:

  • mental health problems

  • a physical or learning disability

  • a serious illness or health condition

  • drug or alcohol problems

You won't always have a priority need if you're disabled or have a health condition.

You need to show the council how you are vulnerable.

How to show you are vulnerable

Tell the council as much as you can about your disability or health condition.

Let them know if you take medication.

Say what it is for, how it helps, any side effects and how it needs to be stored.

Explain what would happen if you became homeless. For example, if your health would quickly get much worse or you couldn't cope.

Tell the council about anything else that could make you vulnerable.

A combination of things could make you vulnerable and in priority need.

Our templates show you what to say to the housing officer.

Get a supporting letter

Ask your doctor, psychiatrist, social worker or support worker for a letter for the council.

Find out what the letter should say.

High risk from coronavirus

The NHS website tells you who is at high risk from coronavirus.

The council must consider if any of these conditions make you vulnerable because of higher risk of serious illness from coronavirus.

Sleeping rough now or in the past

You are at more risk of serious illness from coronavirus if you've been rough sleeping and:

  • are over 55

  • have underlying health conditions

  • have not been vaccinated

Disabled under the Equality Act

You usually count as disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if:

  • you have a physical or mental condition that makes daily activities harder

  • your condition has lasted for at least 12 months

You're also disabled under the Equality Act if you have HIV, cancer or multiple sclerosis. This applies as soon as you are diagnosed.

The council must look at if your disability or illness makes you vulnerable.

Mental health problems

Mental health problems such as depression or anxiety affect people in different ways.

Explain how your mental health affects you day to day and what would happen if you were on the streets. Tell the council if you:

  • take medication

  • have a medical diagnosis

  • get support from a hospital or community mental health team

You're likely to be vulnerable if you are homeless after treatment in hospital for a mental health condition.

The hospital can refer you to the council homeless team with your permission before you have to leave.

Drug and alcohol problems

You could be vulnerable if you have drug or alcohol problems or have done so in the past.

Tell the council how you'll be more at risk of harm if you become homeless.

For example, if:

  • you would start drinking or using drugs again

  • your mental and physical health would get worse

  • your drug or alcohol use would increase or be more of a problem

  • you'd have to stay with friends who drink or use drugs

Older people

There is no set age for older people when the council must accept that you're vulnerable.

You are more likely to have health problems or disabilities as you get older.

Old age increases the risk of serious illness from coronavirus even if you are vaccinated and do not have underlying health conditions.

Disabled or ill after leaving the armed forces

Tell the council if you had post traumatic stress or other serious health problems during or after your military service.

Say if you:

  • had a front line role

  • are disabled or seriously injured

  • were released on medical grounds

Show the council your medical history release form if you have one.

Find out about housing help when you leave the armed forces.

If the council say you’re not vulnerable or in priority need

The council might:

  • refuse to give you emergency housing

  • ask for more information to show you are vulnerable

  • give you a letter that explains why they have decided you're not in priority need

The council can only make a decision and give you a letter after looking into your situation.

Councils sometimes get things wrong. Find out what to do next.

Last updated: 11 April 2022

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