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The vulnerability ruling

May 16th 2015

A landmark legal decision which should help people who are street homeless access emergency accommodation has been widely welcomed by campaigners as an important step towards justice for homeless people.

The ruling, made yesterday by the Supreme Court, was based on a legal challenge brought by three homeless people who were turned away from Southward and Solihull councils after seeking help.

It aimed to redefine the way that councils judge someone to be ‘vulnerable’, a definition that means they qualify for housing.

Previously, councils made the decision about someone’s vulnerability by comparing them with “an ordinary street homeless person”, a comparison known as the ‘Pereira test’. In practice, this often meant arguments that the person was vulnerable as a result of depression, suicidal thoughts or self-harm were dismissed as they had this in common with most street homeless people.

However, yesterday’s judgment means that they must in future compare them with an ‘ordinary person if made homeless’ rather than someone who is already homeless, which means such arguments will be made legally valid again.

The judge also emphasised the need for councils to treat every person applying for assistance with housing as an individual, taking on board their own circumstances.

The change has been described as “very significant” by legal experts working in homelessness, such as Giles Peaker.

Val Stevenson, chair of trustees of the Pavement, said: “This is seriously good news. Councils will have to house more single vulnerable homeless people, and without them having to be ‘even more vulnerable than the vulnerable’.”

Crisis and Shelter made interventions in the legal challenge, with St Mungo's Broadway and Homeless Link providing supporting evidence.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “This ruling represents a major step in tackling the injustice faced by so many single homeless people in England today.

“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.”

However, he and others pointed to the lack of available housing as an urgent problem that continues to lead to people who desperately need help being turned away.

Howard Sinclair, St Mungo's Broadway chief executive, said: "We welcome this important ruling as we know that the previous test had become a very high hurdle for single homeless people to overcome and led to extremely vulnerable people being at risk of rough sleeping.

"However, the concerning issue is the problem of what housing is available for people. It means that already pressurised housing options are going to be stretched even further for those who are shockingly vulnerable, and often in serious physical and mental ill health."


Tony’s story (from Crisis)

Tony, 48, became homeless after losing his job. Unable to find work or a place to live, he slept wherever he could – first under a bridge and later in the woods. He went to his local council, but despite having a heart condition, he didn’t get the help he needed.

“I was at a real low ebb. I was sleeping in the forest because I didn’t want to get kicked or punched. It was a really bad winter. I was weak and worried.

“Going to the council felt like my last resort – I’d tried everything else. When I went in, it felt claustrophobic. It felt like quite an angry place. I approached the lady at the desk and said: ‘I’m homeless and I need help with housing’. And she said: ‘You’re not going to get it’. That was before I’d even seen an advisor. She was very clinical – just bouncing me off straight away without giving me a chance.

“Eventually she made me an appointment with the homeless team, who basically told me the same thing: that they couldn’t help. I had unstable angina, but it didn’t make any difference. All she gave me was a list of shelters. But I already knew where the shelters were. Other than that, she had no advice for me.

“I felt like a second-class citizen. It was a horrible feeling. When I left the council I went back to the forest. I found some cardboard, put that down, my sleeping bag, and I was just back there. I remember being very lonely. And I had this feeling that the government didn’t care at all.”




New arrivals hit the streets

Soup Run Forum

Web only: Emergency Islington shelter remains open during sub-zero temperatures

Chairman of the board

Rest in peace - in memory of lost friends

Prince poses

Starter pack boost

Wearing a jacket to beg?

Teens found guilty of killing Ralph Millward

The Passage withdraws service "as a last resort"

New learning centre for Glasgow

iHobo game causes controversy

Auckland extends ban on rough sleepers

Homeless interrogation

Affordable housing development opens in Edinburgh

Who decides?

Credit unions

New counts are optional

Nobby on stage

I will never forget you, my people

London homeless services in limbo over £3.28m cuts

Disused night shelter re-opened for winter months

Coventry Cyrenians forced to cut services

London hub success for new rough sleepers

Crisis Skylight in Birmingham - a year on

Residents look ahead to staff upheaval

Midland Heart report

Labour call for hefty council tax levy on empty homes

Stik pic for the American Church

Lottery grant means new opportunities

Mungo's launches women's campaign

Homeless people forced into slavery

Homeless couple marry in Australia

Number of homeless in Southend underestimated

Basic banking for all

NSNO expands into west London

Scottish homeless applications drop by 19 per cent

Miami cannibal

Invisible People film UK homeless

The demilitarised zone in North America’s drug war

2012 - the year of the right to permanent accommodation in Scotland?

Crisis at Christmas

The Pavement is recruiting

Rough sleeper donates $250 to charity

Food voucher scheme scrapped

Commemorating friends and companions

Human rights for all

First person: Gemskii on regaining control of her life

The shades come off

Upfront: spikes

Comment: Spikes are the least of your worries

Opinion: All up in smoke?

Heartbreak Hotel, episode 4.

The Pied Piper of Housing

March for the Homeless

Being homeless doesn't mean you can't vote on May 7

The vulnerability ruling

The Queen’s speech

Criminalising homelessness

116-bed hostel for young homeless to close in Southwark

Sponsor a bed and rebuild a life

Hipsters neutralise anti-homeless spikes

What the Brexit will happen now?

Anti-homelessness protesters threatened with eviction, jail by Manchester city council

Showing our impact


The birth of the North Gower Action Group

A pianist, an artist, a dog called George and a new homeless app

Living water

Midwinter blues?

Councils back change in law to tackle rising homelessness

Having problems with your JSA?

Mayoral hustings on homelessness


A major step in reducing homelessness?

Liverpool Police homeless curb beggars belief

Charity begins at home?

Legal aid charade

Surviving the streets – by those who've done it

Stop the scandal

Glasgow homeless services at risk

Bill gives councils legal duty to stop homelessness

Homeless Grenfell survivors afraid of deportation

Remembering those who have died in the past year

Safer injection action update

Alexander Withers

Kevin Headley


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© Copyright 2009-2014 The Pavement. Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656 Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760 ISSN (online) 1757-0484