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Priority need of homeless older or elderly people

This content applies to England

Vulnerability and priority need of homeless applicants who are older people or elderly.

Determining vulnerability due to old age

A person may be vulnerable due to old age.[1]

The Homelessness Code of Guidance states that old age alone is not be sufficient for the applicant to be deemed vulnerable. The local authority should consider whether the applicant's old age is a factor that makes them less able to manage the effects of homelessness than someone less old. Authorities should not use a fixed age beyond which vulnerability is automatic; each case must be considered on the individual circumstances.[2]

Case law

The Supreme Court has clarified that:[3]

  • vulnerability in this context concerns the provision of housing and means the applicant's vulnerability if they are not provided with accommodation, more than general need for 'care and support' under community care legislation (see the section People in need of care and support for more about community care provisions for older people)
  • when determining vulnerability, all of the applicant's characteristics and difficulties must be considered cumulatively, rather than each individually
  • the public sector equality duty complements the duty under the homelessness legislation and specifically requires local authorities to look into whether an applicant's protected characteristic such as age makes them more vulnerable as a result (see the Equality law section for more information about protected characteristics and the public sector equality duty)
  • care and support from statutory bodies and/or family members available to the applicant can be taken into consideration by the authority when determining whether the applicant is or not vulnerable

See also Homelessness help for older people.

Restricted cases

Someone who lives with an older person who is vulnerable, or who might reasonably be expected to reside with them, is also in priority need and could therefore be the applicant if necessary. However, where the applicant lives with an older person who is a person from abroad, the older person may be disregarded in a priority need assessment, or the applicant may be owed a 'restricted' duty. The decision will depend on the immigration status of the applicant and the household member.

See Who has a priority need for further information.

Applications made before 3 April 2018

The current Homelessness Code of Guidance was introduced on 3 April 2018 and the references on this page are to this Code. For applications made before this date, the recommendations of the 2006 Code of Guidance should apply.

[1] s.189(1)(c) Housing Act 1996.

[2] para 8.24 Homelessness Code of Guidance , MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[3] Hotak v Southwark LBC : Kanu v Southwark LBC : Johnson v Solihull MBC [2015] UKSC 30.

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