Saturday, 16 January 2016

A Game Changer from the Supreme Court? | Homeless Link #olsx @occupynn

A Game Changer from the Supreme Court? | Homeless Link

A Game Changer from the Supreme Court? 

Tuesday, 19 May 2015 - 10:22am 
Supposing you lost your job, your home, and had no family to support you. Would you consider yourself to be vulnerable? Would the Law agree?
Photograph: R/DV/RS (Flickr)
Photograph: R/DV/RS (Flickr) 
In a much-anticipated decision this week, the Supreme Court clarified the law around Priority Need categories for individuals approaching their local authority as homeless. These categories are currently defined in Section 189(1) of the 1996 Housing Act:
  1. a pregnant woman or a person with whom she resides or might reasonably be expected to reside;
  2. a person with whom dependent children reside or might reasonably be expected to reside;
  3. a person who is vulnerable as a result of old age, mental illness or handicap or physical disability or other special reason, or with whom such a person resides or might reasonably be expected to reside;
  4. a person who is homeless or threatened with homelessness as a result of an emergency such as flood, fire or other disaster.
The most challenging part of this for housing advisers, local authorities and homeless people themselves has always been category (c). Unlike the other groups, where there is an element of objectivity, the issue of ‘vulnerability’ is a matter of opinion.
Some of the challenges Homeless Link members have faced in advising people on their rights have included:
  • Is vulnerability a relative term or an absolute one? If it is relative, then relative to whom?
  • What happens if a person is not vulnerable now but will be if they become homeless?
  • Isn’t a homeless person by definition vulnerable?
  • How does one factor in the relative vulnerability of different types of homelessness (e.g. rough sleeping versus sofa-surfing)?
  • How much discretion do councils have around reaching decisions on a person’s vulnerability? Can councils reach different decisions on the basis of the same evidence? If so can anything be done about this?
  • What happens if a person is already receiving support from an organisation, such as a day centre?
Last week the Supreme Court ruled on three cases and examined the wider issues they highlighted. The cases were all appeals by people who had been found to not be vulnerable and therefore not in priority need by councils.
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