Laura Sharman 13 May 2015

Landmark ruling to change how councils assess vulnerability of homeless

Councils will be obliged to house more single homeless people following a landmark judgement regarding how they assess someone’s vulnerability.

Today, the Supreme Court ruled that it is wrong of councils to decide if someone is vulnerable by comparing them with ‘an ordinary street homeless person’.

This approach often meant those with depression or people at risk of self-harm were not deemed vulnerable due to the prevalence of such issues among the homeless.

Today’s ruling means people will now to be assessed compared to ‘ordinary’ people rather than those who are actually homeless.

The Supreme Court also said councils are not be allowed to take their own resources into account when deciding on vulnerability.

Housing charity Crisis, who intervened in the appeal, said the judgement would help tackle the ‘injustice’ facing many single homeless people. Chief executive, Jon Sparkes, said: ‘The reality is that anyone sleeping on the streets is vulnerable, and we applaud today’s ruling for making it easier for people to get help. The Court is also clear that while councils are often under huge financial strain, this must not be used as an excuse for avoiding their legal duties.

‘Despite this ruling, we still have a long way to go. The legal entitlements for single homeless people remain inadequate and many will still be turned away from help – cold, desperate and forgotten by wider society. That’s why we will continue to push for a change in the law so that all homeless people can get the help they need.’

Giles Peaker of Anthony Gold, who acted for Crisis in the intervention, said: ‘The purpose of the law was to ensure that people who are at more risk of suffering harm when homeless are given accommodation. The test for vulnerability had become such a high hurdle that vulnerable people were turned away.’

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