case digest

'priority need' 


Hoolaghan -v- Motherwell District Council 1994 GWD 31-1871 (Outer House)
The applicant had been staying at a drug rehabilitation centre. He was single man of 26 years of age. The applicant claimed he was 'vulnerable' because without accommodation his drug condition could relapse. He also claimed that as a homosexual he had been victimised by homophobics. The local social work department supported his claims. The council said that the applicant was typical of single homeless people; and that he did not have a priority need. Lord Osborne dismissed the applicant's petition - the council's assessment of what was 'average or normal' in respect of homeless persons was not a matter for the court generally; the council's decision could only be quashed if it were peverse, irrational or 'Wednesbury' unreasonable.

Kelly -v- Monklands District Council 1985 SLT 165 (Outer House)
A 16 year old made an application after she left home due to assaults by her father. She had no money. The council said she was not 'vulnerable' and therefore had no priority need in law. Lord Ross held that the council had erred in law: to demonstrate that an applicant was 'vulnerable', it was suffcient to show that she was less able to fend for herself, giving rise to a risk of harm, sexual or financial exploitation. The council's decision was not Wednesdbury reasonable (i.e. no reasonable local authority could have reached it) and was quashed.

Wilson -v- Nithsdale District Council 1992 SLT 1131 (Outer House)
A single women had been excluded from her parental home, had been living in transient accommodation and had been subject to a sexual assault. She applied to the council for accommodation and was informed she did not have a priority need. No decisions were given for that reason. The applicant had said she was in priority need for an 'other special reason' (section 25, Housing (Scotland) Act 1987). Lord Prosser (considering R -v- Waveney DC ex. p. Bowers (1982) 4 HLR 118) held that vulnerability was to be measured by comparing the position of the applicant in the housing market with others: (at p.1134) "The comparison must, in my view, be with some assumed average or normal or run-of-the-mill homeless person. But if there is a lesser ability to fend for oneself, against that comparison, in a housing context, so that injury or detriment would result when an ordinary homeless person would be able to cope without harmful effects, then in my opinion, vulnerability for special reason is established for the purposes of the Act; and nothing more special (far less anything odd or exceptional) is required".

R -v- Waveney DC ex parte Bowers [1982] 3 All ER 727; (1982) 4 HLR 118, CA
Mr Bowers had suffered severe head injuries; he was an alcoholic and aged 59. On discharge from hospital he applied as homeless. The council said he did not have a priority need, although a social worker had said he was vulnerable at certain times and needed some supervision. The Court of Appeal held that although his alcoholism would not in itself give him a priority need, his brain injuries (an 'other special reason') had increased his vulnerability and as such he had priority need.

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