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Is there a need for 'Not in Priority Need'?

Denying people support won’t end rough sleeping. Join us to help bring about change.

Rough sleeping numbers are increasing. Last week, figures from Streetlink showed alerts by members of the public increased by 36% year on year between April and June 2020, with a 76% increase in London. CHAIN figures from the Greater London Authority showed numbers of rough sleepers in London up by a third compared to the same period last year.

Many people will be approaching local authorities for support. But at this time, some people who are entitled to support are not receiving it.


To be deemed 'Not in Priority Need'

“They’re basically saying, ‘We know you’re rough sleeping, and we’re fine with that.’”

Member of National Advisory Panel

Under the Homelessness Reduction Act and other housing legislation, the levels of support people are entitled to varies according to whether they are deemed by the council to be in priority need. Those that are can receive the main housing duty, and with it an offer of accommodation.

“One thing I would say is that if the current law was actually followed we wouldn't be having this conversation. Under current law realistically anyone who is rough sleeping, and most people who live in hostels would be in priority need if housing officers were carrying our fair assessments.”

Member of National Advisory Panel

Regretfully, in the experience of members of our National Advisory Panel of people with lived experience of disadvantage, far too many people experiencing rough sleeping are deemed by the council to be Not In Priority Need (NIPN), and therefore not entitled to an offer of accommodation.

“It’s standard for councils to use NIPN to automatically get rid of people.”

Member of National Advisory Panel


There’s a problem with proving vulnerability.”

Member of National Advisory Panel

Fundamentally, in many instances these decisions are determined by whether a local authority deems that someone is ‘vulnerable.’ It is our opinion, that the current Code of Guidance guidance, where allowing for individual discretion, has allowed too much local interpretation and ineffective safeguards against bad decision making.

“There’s too much room for interpretation.”

Member of National Advisory Panel

“Someone had tried to kill themselves twice and was found NIPN.”

Member of National Advisory Panel

“There’s just a brief letter saying why which is not specific enough.”

Member of National Advisory Panel

“Need to be clearer why making bad decisions.”

Member of National Advisory Panel


The Homelessness Reduction Act sought to reduce the levels gate-keeping, so that individualised support was provided in a pro-active or effective way.

However, in our experience some local authorities continue to adopt a default position whereby people are found to be NIPN before they are challenged.

“Local Authorities will throw case law at you.”

Member of National Advisory Panel

“Most NIPN decisions are very weak when you start looking at them in detail.”

Member of National Advisory Panel

“(Staff working in) Councils get trained on how to get rid of people!"

Member of National Advisory Panel

This approach puts an unnecessary burden on individuals experiencing homelessness to prove that they are 'vulnerable,' to prove that they meet a deficit-based label. If people are prepared to do this, are aware of support available to challenge decisions and the means to access this support, many decisions are overturned.

“The more vulnerable you are, the easier it is to gate-keep people.”

Member of National Advisory Panel

“Decisions need to be challenged. We advise Shelter; it’s amazing how decisions are changed when they get involved!”

Member of National Advisory Panel

You need an advocate to be present, ‘cause they can then explain your rights. You go to court you can get an advocate, but if you go to housing you get nothing! If you don’t have support, insight, you’re not going to challenge it. People don’t know where to start.”

Member of National Advisory Panel

Our experiences

“People say, ‘The very worst thing about being homeless was the interviews, being doubted and treated like liars.’”

Member of National Advisory Panel

Such an approach to determining support for people gives very little consideration to individuals well-being. In our experiences, this can be translated to a culture where people experience a lack of compassion and trust from staff whose role it is to support.

“Housing Options were really challenging sometimes. [Person] had loads of childhood trauma, they turned round and said ‘He should be over it by now!’”

Member of National Advisory Panel

“She’s got no empathy, and some of the language she uses is disgusting!”

Member of National Advisory Panel

“They have so much power, and so little accountability. No professional registration. No training.”

Member of National Advisory Panel

“Some Local Authorities take decision making away from frontline workers, so someone can be blunt about it.”

Member of National Advisory Panel

What needs to happen

“Manager was telling people that budget was sky high, so they need to ‘be mindful.’”

Member of National Advisory Panel

The national Government have pledged to end rough sleeping by the end of Parliament. With increasing numbers of people in need of support from local authorities, there is unprecedented pressure to make sure that councils are appropriately resourced, have the right framework to work in, and the right culture to deliver what people need.

As group of people with lived experience of disadvantage, we want to make sure that this happens. And we want to do this alongside others who have similar concerns and a passion to ensure people have a voice, choices, and support to meet their aspirations.

Is this you? If it is please get in touch by emailing info@expertlink.org.uk. Together we can make a difference

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