Homeless people no longer have to take accommodation test

  • A supreme court has found that councils have wrongly assed the need of applicants for accommodation in new ruling.

    Homeless people should now find it easier to obtain council accommodation after a supreme court judgement that requires housing officers to adopt a new approach, reports the Guardian.  /images/house_and_magnifine_glass.jpg

    Charities have welcomed the ruling as they have found many local authorities have been wrongly assessing need in relation to those deem "street homeless" although the description doesn't appear in the relevant legislation.  

    "The expression ‘street homeless', is ... much used, but it is not to be found in the 1996 Housing Act," the judgement said. "The expression can plainly mean somewhat different things to different people. ‘Homeless', as defined in the act, is an adjective which can cover a number of different situations, and the very fact that the statute does not distinguish between them calls into question the legitimacy of doing so when considering the nature or extent of an authority's duty to an applicant."

    Welcoming the judgment, Giles Peaker, a partner at Anthony Gold Solicitors who acted for the charity Crisis in the case, 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. The supreme court has set out clearly how the law should work to fulfil its purpose."

    Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: "At the mercy of an almost impossible test, thousands of vulnerable homeless people have been forced to sleep rough or pushed into dangerous situations. Today's landmark ruling should make this a thing of the past, and mean the law rightly acts to protect those who need it most. Far too often at Shelter we hear from homeless people in utterly desperate situations, like someone fleeing domestic violence or coping with a severe mental health problem, who've been wrongly refused help by their local council and left to fend for themselves on the streets. Today's judgment shows that our homelessness laws remain a vital safeguard for those who lose their home through no fault of their own, and they must be upheld."

    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 court heard evidence of just how horrific a homeless person's life has to be before they qualify for council help. The average age of death for a homeless person is just 47; they are over nine times more likely to commit suicide and 13 times more likely to be a victim of violence. It's a scandal that someone facing this kind of life can be told they're not vulnerable enough for help. 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."

    The Local Government Association said: "Councils will be considering this ruling carefully. It is a tragedy when anyone becomes homeless and councils work hard to find appropriate accommodation for homeless people, particularly those who are young, vulnerable, or with families. With homelessness approvals increasing and local authorities accepting more people than ever, sadly, councils simply do not have enough homes to provide accommodation for all of those who need support, due to a shortage of housing and pressures on their budgets. Councils are continuously finding new and innovative ways to deliver and finance new homes to expand the range of accommodation available. However, if they are to unlock their ambitions to build many more affordable homes, they must be given urgent flexibility to do so."

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