The Supreme Court rules that local authorities change vulnerability test to help single homeless people

In a landmark ruling on May 13, the Supreme Court, the highest court, has found that local authorities failed to recognise homeless people in vulnerable situations, according to a BBC report.

Ruling on the cases of three homeless men, the court found that one, Patrick Kanu, was wrongfully denied care.

The court said local authorities assessing the needs of single homeless people should compare them with an “ordinary person” rather than another homeless person.

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.”

Before the ruling, local authorities assessed potentially vulnerable people by comparing them with a so-called “ordinary homeless person”. That led to situations in which single homeless people suffering from problems including depression and suicidal thoughts were deemed not vulnerable because an “ordinary homeless person” might be expected to suffer from those problems.

The comparison meant that Kanu was deemed not to be a priority for housing assistance when he applied to Southwark Council last year, despite suffering from “multiple physical problems as well as psychotic symptoms and suicidal ideation”.

Kanu - along with two other men, Craig Johnson and Sifatullah Hotak - took their cases to the Court of Appeal, but the court upheld the decisions made by Southwark and Solihull councils.

All three men then took their cases to the Supreme Court, which found that Kanu should have been deemed a priority. The court ruled that Johnson and Hotak should not have been, but suggested that Southwark council look closely at its protocols with regard to Hotak.

The change in the “vulnerability” assessment will lower the bar for those suffering from various problems and clear the way for them to be given priority status by their local authority.

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