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Supreme Court does away with the ordinary homeless person

View profile for Joanne Ellis
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On 14th May the Supreme Court made a huge decision which is set to have a significant impact on homeless people.

In order for a local authority to accept a duty to provide accommodation to anyone a vulnerability test has to be met. Until now, that test was set out in a 1998 case as ‘less able to fend for himself than an ordinary homeless person...’ (‘the Pereira test’).

The Supreme Court has now decided that the test should now be less able to fend for himself in comparison to ‘an ordinary person, but an ordinary person if made homeless, not an ordinary actual homeless person’.

This sounds like legal technicalities, right?

The implications of the case are set to be far reaching. The decision being so important that Shelter and Crisis were involved in the action. The Department for Communities and Local Government also intervened. The, frequently unachievable, old test has been attacked on a number of fronts before. Including a failed attempt to review a decision which clearly said (after misquoting statistics of the likelihood of self harm and attempted suicide by homeless people)  “this shows that even if you did have suicidal thoughts that this would not necessarily be anything different to what an ordinary homeless person would suffer from.”.

The new test forces the true position of the vulnerable homeless person to be considered. Giles Peaker, Partner at Anthony Gold Solicitors, who acted for Crisis, commented the judgment ‘would stop the vulnerable homeless having to be ‘even more vulnerable than vulnerable’’.

The decision is likely to have most impact on single people with mental health problems. Until now it was almost impossible to establish that they would be more vulnerable than any other homeless person.

Our specialist housing team have acted for hundreds if not thousands of individuals who have been turned away from the local authority as not meeting the test. The position now is different with Local Authorities worried about how many more people they will now be forced to help.

Our specialist housing law team can guide you through the complex area of homeless legislation right from when you have been interviewed or turned away for an interview up to considering the suitability of any accommodation offered, call us on 0333 344 4772.

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