Great news for vulnerable homeless people: important Law Centre victory

Friday, May 15th 2015

On Wednesday the Supreme Court published a landmark ruling concerning vulnerable homeless people, that is set to transform the access of single homeless people to accommodation. The Supreme Court had deliberated three cases together, including Kanu (appellant) v London Borough of Southwark (Respondent) [2015] UKSC 30, brought by Stuart Hearne of Cambridge House Law Centre.

Housing homeless people is a responsibility of local authorities, but the expense involved and the short supply of accommodation mean they need to prioritise. Until now, single homeless people were at a disadvantage when applying to be accommodated, compared with homeless people with children. Even when they were particularly vulnerable, they had to prove that theirs was a priority need - an impossibly high hurdle.

The Supreme Court ruling levels the playing field by setting out new guidelines for assessing homelessness applications. The vulnerability of single homeless people will now be assessed not compared with other homeless people, but compared with any other person. This should remove the disadvantage of single homeless people and make it easier for them to access housing.

Several other charities, including Shelter and Crisis, have made expert contributions, known as 'interventions', to the cases. Acting on behalf of Mr Kanu, Stuart Hearne of Cambridge House Law Centre has instructed barristers Zia Nabi (Doughty Street Chambers) and Helen Mountfield QC (Matrix Chambers)

Stuart has welcomed the decision, saying that it would “make it much clearer who should be assisted.” He added that the decision would mean that “the vast majority of homeless people who have a physical disability or have mental ill health should be accepted as being in priority need for accommodation.” 

Nimrod Ben-Cnaan, head of policy and profile at the Law Centres Network, said: "This is Law Centres doing what they do best. We aim to tackle poverty by tackling its underlying causes in disadvantage. We do this case by case but also by seizing opportunities, like this one, to address systemic or policy issues. Congratulations to Stuart and Cambridge House Law Centre on a game-changing achievement!" 

Click 'download' below for Cambridge House’s statement detailing the case.

Click here to hear Stuart explain the case on BBC Radio 5 Live (from time stamp 51:45).

Click here for Guardian report on the ruling.

Click here for analysis of the importance of this ruling on the Nearly Legal blog.

Click here for commentary: Stopping the scandal of 'sorry, you're just not vulnerable enough'.

Cambridge House StatementDownload[15 KB]