What is priority need?

If the council say you do not have a 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. You can ask them to change their decision.

If you do not get emergency housing

The council must give you emergency housing if they think you might:

  • be homeless

  • have a priority need

  • meet immigration conditions

You should not be asked to prove your situation when you first ask for help.

Emergency housing must be provided while the council look into your situation.

What to say to the council

Use this template to say why you should get emergency housing.

You can email or read it to a housing officer.

I am making a homeless application under Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996.

I am homeless because explain why you have nowhere to stay.

I am in priority need because explain why you are in priority need or vulnerable.

I am eligible because state your nationality or immigration status.

This information gives you reason to believe that I qualify for emergency housing under section 188 of the Housing Act while you make enquiries into my situation.

Please help with emergency housing straight away as I have nowhere to stay.

If the council want more information

Find out what the council might ask for if you're:

You are always in priority need in these situations.

The council must not demand police reports or proof of violence before they help.

If you don't have an automatic priority need, the council will often ask for more information to show you are vulnerable.

Make a list about why you could be vulnerable

For example, you are more likely to suffer harm to your health when homeless if you:

  • are at high risk from coronavirus

  • are disabled under the Equality Act

  • take medication which must be kept in a fridge or has side effects

  • get help for a mental health condition or drug or alcohol problems

Your situation or life experiences can also help to show you are vulnerable.

For example, if you:

  • have slept rough

  • are at risk of violence and exploitation

  • were in care, prison or the armed forces

One or more of these things can make you vulnerable and in priority need.

Get a supporting letter

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

The letter should explain:

  • any health problems or disability

  • how your condition and any treatment affects you

  • your immediate situation and any experiences that could make you more vulnerable

  • what would happen to you if you have nowhere to stay

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

The council must look at this information even if they have their own medical advisers.

Read more about when you could be vulnerable because of:

Show this guide to the person writing you a supporting letter if they are not sure what information to include.

Use this template to write your own letter

You can send in your own letter or email if you cannot find anyone to write a supporting letter or if you're waiting for your doctor to confirm things.

Choose the parts that apply to you.

I am vulnerable and in priority need.

My disability and health conditions are:

  • physical or learning disabilities: give details

  • mental health conditions: give details

  • other health conditions: give details

My medication is: list your medication

My medication must be stored in: for example, a fridge

My medication causes side effects: for example, blackouts, seizures

I get treatment or care from: for example, a doctor, mental health team, support worker

I use mobility aids: give details

I am struggling to find a home by myself because I have been in: for example, prison, care, the armed forces, asylum support housing

I do not have any support from family or friends.

I have experienced violence, harassment or exploitation while homeless.

I am at much greater risk if I am on the streets because of my disability, health conditions and personal situation.

If you get a letter about priority need

The council must look into your situation properly before deciding if you're in priority need and meet the other conditions for longer term homeless help.

The council must give you a letter that explains their decision but this will usually be a few weeks after you first speak to them.

Ask for a written decision letter with reasons if you have never been given one.

You have 3 weeks to ask for a review from when you get the decision.

If the council have provided you with emergency housing, you should ask to stay there during the review.

You could qualify for free legal help with a review.

The council must help you find somewhere to live even if you're not in priority need.

Last updated: 11 April 2022

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