What is priority need?

You're vulnerable for other reasons

You have a priority need if you're vulnerable for other special reasons.

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.

How to show you are vulnerable

Tell the council as much as you can about your situation.

You could be vulnerable because of your life experiences, as well as health problems.

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

Explain what would happen if you became homeless. For example, if your health would quickly get much worse or you would be at risk of violence or exploitation.

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.

Sleeping rough

The council should look at:

  • where you stay at night

  • how long you've been homeless

  • how your mental or physical health has been affected

During coronavirus

The council should consider if you're more at risk because of the pandemic.

You're at higher risk of serious illness from coronavirus if you sleep rough in the following situations:

  • you're over 55

  • you've not had your vaccine or booster

  • a health condition puts you at high risk

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

Escaping violence or harassment

You are always in priority need if you’re at risk of domestic abuse.

You could be vulnerable if you leave your home because of violence or serious threats from someone who is not related to you.

For example:

  • gang violence or witness intimidation

  • serious antisocial behaviour from neighbours

  • racist or homophobic attacks, threats or harassment

  • hate crimes or being taken advantage of because of a disability

Show police or medical reports or a support letter from Victim Support.

If you’ve been in prison

You could be vulnerable if you've been in prison.

The prison can refer you for homeless help 8 weeks before your release, with your permission. This gives the council more time to look into your situation.

If you ask for help after release, the council should look at:

  • how long you spent in prison and when you were released

  • if you have found and kept a home since release from prison

Care leavers aged 21 or over

You could be vulnerable if you were in care when you were younger.

If you have a pathway plan, the council can contact your personal adviser with your permission to help with your homeless assessment.

The council homeless team should look at:

  • how long and why you were in care

  • if you have found and kept a home since leaving care

If you've left the armed forces

Tell the council if you have:

  • a disability or other serious health problems

  • have found it hard to find somewhere to live since leaving the forces

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

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

Refugees and people who have left Ukraine

You are always in priority need if children live with you or you're pregnant.

If you do not have children, you are in priority need if you are vulnerable.

For example, you may be vulnerable because of:

  • lack of knowledge of rights or support services

  • trauma in your home country, or while getting to or seeking asylum in UK

The council should consider these things.

Ask for an interpreter if you do not understand or it's hard to explain things.

You should not be asked to discuss traumatic experiences in a lot of detail.

You can ask your doctor or support worker to write you a letter.

The Refugee Council has a guide if you're helping someone to make a homeless application.

Survivors of modern slavery

Modern slavery is a serious crime.

Victims can be any age, ethnicity or nationality including British citizens.

It can include if you are:

  • tricked or forced into working for little or no pay

  • forced to work for nothing to pay off debts to traffickers

  • told to move drugs around, shoplift or beg by criminals who take the money

Forced work happens more often in some industries including nail bars, car washes, farming, construction and the sex industry.

Tell the council if you have ever been in a situation like this.

You are more at risk of exploitation when homeless.

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

Safe housing and specialist support

People who might be victims of modern slavery can get safe housing and specialist support.

This applies even if you cannot get benefits in the UK because of immigration conditions.

The council can refer you to the Salvation Army with your permission.

You can also phone:

Both helplines offer advice in other languages.

The council must provide emergency housing if they think you might be vulnerable and meet immigration conditions.

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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