What is priority need?

Vulnerable for special reasons

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

For example, if you:

  • are on the streets

  • are homeless because of violence

  • have been in care

  • have been in prison

  • have drug or alcohol problems

  • served in the armed forces

  • have been trafficked or exploited by other people

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

The council looks at your situation and evidence. Then they decide if you have a priority need.

Vulnerable for more than one reason

Sometimes you can have a priority need because of how lots of things affect you, even if each of those reasons on its own is not enough.

The council must look at all the things that could make you vulnerable.

How to show you are vulnerable

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

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

Tell the council 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 people taking advantage of you.

Use our letter template

Our template shows you what to say to the housing officer.

Your doctor, psychiatrist, social worker or support worker could write you a supporting letter to show the council.

Rough sleeping or on the streets

The council should look at:

  • where you stay at night

  • how long you've been homeless

  • your mental and physical health

Violence or harassment

You always have a priority need if you’re at risk of domestic abuse.

You could count as 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 the council any police or medical reports, or a support letter from Victim Support.

Care leavers aged 21 or over

You could count as vulnerable if you're 21 or over and were in care.

If you have a pathway plan, the council can contact your personal adviser to help with your housing problems if you agree.

The council should look at:

  • how long and why you were in care

  • if you found and kept a home after you left care

You always have a priority need if you're a care leaver aged 18 to 20.

If you’ve been in prison

You could count as vulnerable if you've been in prison.

This might be because you:

  • spent a long time there

  • find it difficult to cope with everyday things after release

The prison or probation service can help with housing before and after you leave prison.

You can ask the prison to give your contact details to any council's homeless team 8 weeks before your release. This gives the council more time to look into your situation.

If you ask for help after you leave prison, 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

Drug and alcohol problems

You could count as 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 are homeless.

For example, if:

  • you would start drinking or using drugs again

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

  • your mental and physical health would get worse

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

If you've left the armed forces

Tell the council if you:

  • have a disability or other serious health problems

  • find it hard to find somewhere to live

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

If you do not have children, you could count as having a priority need if you are vulnerable.

For example, you may count as vulnerable because you:

  • do not know about your rights or support services

  • experienced trauma in your home country, or while seeking asylum

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

You should not be asked to talk about traumatic experiences in detail.

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

You always have a priority need if children live with you or you're pregnant.

The Refugee Council has a guide if you're helping a refugee without children 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

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

You could count as vulnerable if you are at risk of other people taking advantage of you when you are homeless.

The council should look at if this means you have a priority need.

Safe housing and specialist support

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

You could get support even if you cannot get benefits in UK because of immigration rules.

The council can refer you to the Salvation Army if you say it is okay.

You can also phone:

Both helplines have advice in other languages.

If the council say you are not in priority need

The council must look into your situation before they can make a decision.

If you're homeless and they think you might be vulnerable because of any special reason, they must provide emergency housing while they look into things.

Last updated: 29 September 2023

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