What is priority need?

You have a health condition or disability

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 need to show the council how you are vulnerable.

Our template letter shows you the right words to say.

'Vulnerable' means you'd be at much greater risk of harm than most people if you had nowhere to live.

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

You should not be asked to prove you're vulnerable if you ask for emergency housing.

The council must give you emergency housing while they look into your situation if they think you might be homeless and 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.

Provide a supporting letter

Ask your doctor, psychiatrist, social worker or support staff for a letter you can give the housing officer.

The letter should say why you are at more risk of harm because of your disability or health condition.

It could include some of the information below.

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

  • makes you at more risk of harm when homeless

Tell the council if you:

  • have a diagnosis

  • take medication

  • get support from a hospital or community mental health team

You are likely to be vulnerable if you are homeless after being treated in hospital for a mental health condition.

With your permission, the hospital can refer you to the council homeless team before you leave.

Drug and alcohol problems

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

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

For example, if:

  • your mental and physical health would get worse

  • you would start drinking or using drugs again

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

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

Older people

There is no set age when the council must accept that you're vulnerable because of old age.

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 don't have underlying health conditions.

A carer, social services or charity like Age UK can tell the council why you are vulnerable.

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 says you don't have a priority need

The council must still give some help even if you don't have a priority need.

The council must give you emergency housing while they look into your situation if they think you might be homeless and in priority need.

Councils get things wrong. You have options if they say you aren't vulnerable.

Last updated: 26 November 2021

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