'Priority need' definitions

If you are eligible for public funds, have a connection to the local area and are ‘unintentionally homeless', you will then still need to be considered in ‘priority need' in order to be considered  'statutorily homeless'. 

In the UK, 'priority need' was originally defined in the 1977 Housing (Homeless Persons) Act. This has since been refined and expanded in England and Wales, as well as Scotland, where it was abolished altogether at the end of 2012.

England

The 1996 Housing Act refined and expanded the definition of a household in 'priority need' in England (and Wales) so as to include:

  • a pregnant woman
  • dependent children
  • someone vulnerable as a result of old age, mental illness or learning disability or physical disability or other special reason
  • someone homeless or threatened with homelessness as a result of an emergency such as flood, fire or other disaster

This was expanded further still in England by the 2002 Homelessness (Priority Need for Accommodation) (England) Order to include those:

  • aged 16 and 17 years old
  • aged under 21 years old who were in local authority care between the ages of 16 and 18
  • aged 21 and over who are vulnerable as a result of leaving local authority care
  • vulnerable as a result of leaving the armed forces
  • vulnerable as a result of leaving prison
  • vulnerable as a result of fleeing domestic violence or the threat of domestic violence

Wales

The 1996 Housing Act refined and expanded the definition of a household in 'priority need' in Wales (and England) so as to include:

  • a pregnant woman
  • dependent children
  • someone vulnerable as a result of old age, mental illness or learning disability or physical disability or other special reason
  • someone homeless or threatened with homelessness as a result of an emergency such as flood, fire or other disaster

This was expanded further still in Wales by the 2001 Homeless Persons (Priority Need) (Wales) Order  to include those:

  • aged 16-17 years old
  • aged 18-21 year old leaving care or at risk of financial or sexual exploitation
  • who became homeless after leaving the armed forces
  • former prisoners who became homeless after being released from custody
  • vulnerable as a result of fleeing domestic violence or the threat of domestic violence

In April 2014 the Welsh Assembly passed the Housing (Wales) Act 2014. Part two fo the Housing Act made multiple changes in the way homelessness is dealt with in Wales

  • new duties for local authroities to help prevent homelessness for anyone who asks for help
  • involving people in designing their own solutions, by jointly developing a Personal Housing Plan looking not just at immediate housing problems but also at any underlying issues
  • intervening early- wihtin 56 days of homelessness- to prevent people's situations escalating out of hand
  • removing automatic priority need for prison leavers
  • allowing local authorities to dsicharge homelessness duties with an offer of private rented accommodation without the consent of the applicant. 

Scotland

On 31 December 2012, priority need was officially abolished by the Scottish Government after the passing of  The Homelessness (Abolition of Priority Need Test) (Scotland) Order 2012. All councils across Scotland now have to provide 'settled accommodation' to anyone who is unintentionally homeless.

1987 Housing (Scotland) Act. The defintion of 'prioirty need' was the same as the defintion adopted by England and Wales in the 1996 Housing Act. 

This was expanded and refined further still in Scotland by the 2003 Homelessness etc. (Scotland) Act, to also include those:

  • vulnerable as a result of personality disorder; learning disability; chronic ill health; having suffered a miscarriage or undergone an abortion
  • vulnerable as a result of having been discharged from a hospital, a prison or any part of the regular armed forces
  • aged 16 or 17
  • aged 18 to 20 leaving care or at risk of financial or sexual exploitation or involvement in the serious misuse of alcohol or any drug
  • who have suffered or is at risk of violence or harassment as a result of their religion, sexual orientation, race, colour or ethnic or national origins
  • who are at risk of domestic abuse

The 2003 Act made provisions for the distinction between 'priority' and 'non-priority' need to be effectively abolished. It also introduced a more proactive approach to working with intentionally homeless people by working to tackle the causes of intentional homelessness.

Since devolution in 1999, the Scottish Parliament has had the power to pass primary legislation in many areas including housing. 

Homelessness ends here

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