Council told vulnerable young person with mental health problems they could cope with homelessness as well as a ‘normal’ person


A Conservative council in Torbay has refused to support a young person with serious mental health problems, saying that they should be able to cope with being homeless and living on the streets like any “ordinary person” would.

In a letter, the council say that they had decided the young person would be no more vulnerable or at risk of harm than an ‘ordinary person’.

The appallingly callous letter, which also implies that people who have mental health problems are not ‘ordinary’ people, was posted online yesterday by the homeless charity, Humanity Torbay. 

Two of the conditions the young person has – depression and emotionally unstable personality disorder – each carry with them a significant risk of suicide.  People with the latter condition experience a pattern of sometimes rapid fluctuation from periods of confidence to despair, with fear of abandonment and rejection. There is a particularly strong tendency towards suicidal thinking and self-harm.

Transient psychotic symptoms, including brief delusions and hallucinations, may also be present. It is also associated with substantial impairment of social, psychological and occupational functioning and quality of life. Associated illnesses include post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), eating disorders, recurrent self harm, anxiety and depression. Physical illnesses related to this condition are: 

  • Arteriosclerosis
  • Hypertension
  • Hepatic disease
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Gastrointestinal disease
  • Arthritis
  • Sexually transmitted infections (risk factor is increased because of poor impulse control).

Being homeless will increase each of these risks substantially.

People with emotionally unstable personality disorder are particularly at risk of suicide. 

A controversial council

Last month Torbay council paid £3m for the Proper Cornish factory in Bodmin, Cornwall, in a controversial bid to improve finances. The council announced it was  halting all non urgent expenditure due to a projected overspend of £2.8 million in 2018.

The council say they are trying to grow its revenues with business investments, and has spent £100m on four properties in the last financial year. The authority’s multi-million property portfolio includes hotels, office blocks and distribution centres in different parts of the country.

They claim that the council can invest up to £200m in “opportunities and assets” to generate income. Last month, cross-party opposition also emerged against a plan for Torbay Council to invest £15m in a new distribution warehouse near Exeter said to be for online retailer Amazon.

Meanwhile citizens in the area are being stripped of their opportunities and assets, with rising numbers being unable to meet even their fundamental survival needs – food, fuel and shelter.

Furthermore, evidence clearly shows that there is a considerable link between homelessness and mental health problems; however, this link is often overlooked. Sometimes mental health problems can lead to homelessness, but it’s also evident that being homeless contributes significantly to the worsening existing mental ill health, and it also creates mental illness.

A home is vital for stability, good mental and physical health, allowing people to live in safety, security, peace and dignity. Of course, there are numerous factors which can cause people to become homeless, many of which are beyond an individual’s control, such as lack of affordable housing, disability and poverty. But what really needs to be highlighted to this council is the two-way relationship between homelessness and mental ill health. Homelessness will invariably exacerbate an existing mental health condition. In turn, this can make it even harder for that person to cope, recover and to improve their circumstances.

Staff who work with homeless individuals in councils, shelters, hostels and health services, must be aware of their emotional and psychological needs, wellbeing, and put their safety first.

The homeless population currently struggle to access healthcare and tend to rely on A&E when they reach crisis point. Torbay council, who seem to operate within a business model, have nonetheless failed to recognise that their approach is ultimately more costly, and reflects very poor management of public funds.  

Although there is no such ‘right to housing’ in itself, the right to an adequate standard of living, including housing, is recognised in the UN Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The letter from the Council was written to attempt to justify the council’s decision to not make the young person a priority for housing under Section 189(1) C of the Housing Act, 1996. The Council’s decision clearly violates the Equality Act 2010, as it fails to recognise the eligibility criteria laid out in the Act. All public authorities, including local authorities and other registered providers of social housing, are subject to the public sector equality duty to have ‘due regard’ to the need to:

  • eliminate unlawful discrimination
  • advance equality of opportunity, and
  • foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not.

This allows for positive discrimination in relation to disability (see the Public sector equality duty for more on this). Under the Equality Act, mental illness is also included in the category of disability, which is a ‘protected characteristic’. 

Under the Housing Act legislation, priority need for accommodation was established. 

(1) The following have a priority need for accommodation—

(a) a pregnant woman or a person with whom she resides or might reasonably be expected to reside;

(b) a person with whom dependent children reside or might reasonably be expected to reside;

(c) a person who is vulnerable as a result of old age, mental illness or handicap or physical disability or other special reason, or with whom such a person resides or might reasonably be expected to reside;

(d) a person who is homeless or threatened with homelessness as a result of an emergency such as flood, fire or other disaster.

Torbay homeless

Torbay 2

The shocking council letter to a vulnerable young person with mental ill health.

Charity and community group Humanity Torbay say they have shown the decision letter to a solicitor, while not disclosing any personal details, to protect the identity of the vulnerable young person concerned.

This person showed the charity the letter, however, because they wished the public to see the awful situation they were placed in and the risks they were exposed to because of the council’s decision, despite being so unwell and vulnerable to begin with.

A spokesperson for Humanity Torbay said: What is so appalling, what completely horrified us is that this person was not considered priority need after being housed temporarily.

“The most chilling part of all this was that this particular person who came to us was in great distress and need. It’s so terrible that they were told that “however looking at all the facts I believe that you are resilient enough to manage with a reasonable level of functionality and I’m not satisfied that your ability to manage being homeless even that homelessness must result in you having to sleep rough occasionally or in the longer term would deteriorate to a level where the harm you’re likely to experience would be outside of the range of vulnerability of that an ordinary person would experience.” 

“What shocked us was the fact we saw this young person’s doctors’ letters as well. We are sure this is happening all over the country but this is Torbay Council, who we have desperately tried to work with. 

“We felt a care of duty to our client who asked us to give this to the public so they could see what is going on. We have been very careful to make sure this persons identity is not compromised in anyway and as we say, we have spoken to a solicitor because we are horrified and shocked that somebody with severe depression and other medical conditions is deemed fit to be able to sleep on the streets.

“Torbay Council are well aware of what gender this person is as well.”

This is another factor that adds to the already considerable vulnerability of this young person. 

Last year, a report was published about Torbay’s homeless crisis, saying that £918,800 investment over five years was needed to “reach a point where homelessness levels would plateau”.

The council seem rather more interested in investing in property, business and land, however. 

The charity Crisis were commissioned by the Shekinah Mission in Plymouth to carry out a detailed piece of work to respond to the rising number of rough sleepers in Torbay. 

The authors say they spoke with a range of organisations as well as 50 people who have experienced homelessness in Torbay – although Humanity Torbay say they were not contacted. The report resulted in Torbay Council deciding to ‘relocate services and move to a dispersed accommodation model‘ and create ‘a team to support people with the most complex lives integrated with other social care pathways’. 

John Hamblin, Chief Executive of Shekinah, said: “For over 25 years, Shekinah has been supporting people who are homeless and rough sleeping. During this time we have repeatedly seen the failure of the current accommodation system to support people with multiple and complex needs. The result has been the creation of a revolving door system where people are falling in and out of services and are often left with no access to accommodation. We are hoping that through this Nationwide Foundation funded study, Shekinah and its partners can start to realise the aspiration that everyone deserves a place to call home.”

I agree. Everyone deserves a place to call home. Shelter is, after all, a fundamental human survival need. But we have reached a stage, as a society, where the most vulnerable citizens are not considered a priority for support. Those are the people that are most in need of it.


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25 thoughts on “Council told vulnerable young person with mental health problems they could cope with homelessness as well as a ‘normal’ person

  1. It is absolutely disgusting how people & young children are being treated like this it needs to STOP. The government need to take a long hard look at how there decisions are effecting the public. They need togo to the streets & speak to the public . It is appauling .


  2. I fear this is now standard practice across the board.
    I was threatened with homelessness a while back and found myself attending a homelessness reduction style interview with my local council. It was all about enablement and I was bombarded with very personal health questions relating to my mental health disability. Felt rather like a DWP health assessment!
    I did some research as it appeared no decision on whether I would be classes vulnerable would be made until the point of eviction!. The council would not answer any direct questions put by me relating to vulnerable persons etc…

    After some research it appeared that the council gather as much info, evidence as possible and then have a digital drop box to a solicitor effectively set up by gov, who quickly evaluates the vulnerability clause and posts back to the council. It cost £15 per claim at the time. The councils do not make this decision themselves it appears? The solicitors job is to act on the precedence set by a judge a few years ago stating the normal, not normal degree of risk re normal person. This turned mental illness on its head making it no longer a blanket criteria. The person has to prove they are more at risk than a ‘normal person living on the streets’ in fact kind of guilty until proven innocent.

    Councils via gov via the homelessness reduction act include incentives to ‘encourage’ all potentially homeless people to rehouse themselves in the private sector. This includes vulnerable people. all attempts are made to see if it can be alleged that the person also made themselves homeless etc..

    Its a quagmire of dirty deeds and incentives….

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m a lone parent and at the time, my two youngest sons were still in school, and I was seriously ill with lupus. I had to give up my job, as I was too ill to work. I was told by the council that they wouldn’t help me until I was on the streets. I asked about all of our belongings and furniture, the housing officer just shrugged and said they couldn’t help me at all until I was on the streets. I had the repossession notice, but the council didn’t help. I had to do it all myself, it almost killed me.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, the exact same happened to me and that was over 20 years ago – I was told to turn up at the council offices with my suitcases and 2 children (one only 2yrs old) once I’d been evicted. I lost my house too through being unable to work after a series of major operations and ongoing illness. This is why we need a massive council house building project. Expecting people in this situation to find private rented accommodation is unrealistic and cruel.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Conditionality and assessment. For a roof over your head.

      And wtf is an ‘ordinary person’? Who is Mr or Mrs very average? It’s not as if mental health problems are currently uncommon. Where does their criteria and definition come from?


      1. the homeless reduction act is in fact codified high threashold gatekeeping.based on exactly the same claimant conditionality assesment interveiw philosophy as DWP. housing first, the dispersed one bed flats to send the street homeless minority well away from rich city centre dwellers, with 2 hrs a week visit from a poorly paid under trained generic support worker is supported by developers who buy and re develop the cheaply sold off de funded supported accomadation and city hostels. international evidence shows its always a desaster for young people ‘(hidden homeless ie youth,actualy goes UP! even in finland) , who need congrigate shared accomadation that the neolibarel george bush instegated housing first policy shuts down and flogs off, the contract for housing assesments for homeless young people in manchester is held by centrepoint whos position vis a vis the young client is akin to contractors like atos and the ESA assesments over at albert bridge i see the position this young person in your piece is in frequently.iv often joked iv had to take a destitute young person to bridge house then to centrepoint and struggled to descern much difference in the quality of the face to face assesments at either! The homeless sector is all smoke and mirrors, gatekeeping targets and critisism resistant people with mother theras complexes coluding with there council commisioning paymasters budget targets..sorry..’expectations’. and now housing benefit is localised and only for supported accomadation and being tied into work and health conditionalities its all getting a very familiar DWP feeling in the homeless sector. I get called in by investigative jornos and documentary producers cos this is my expert field. iv got cases far more shocking that this.feel free to contact me! whats coming policy wise is even more neolibarel conditionality in housing and tying it into more DWP working well independant living targets nonsence.and much of the 3rd sector is being co opted into the commissioned cash gravy train. thave turned there vulnarable clients into payment by results profit units.while those who dont meet the SIB payment mechanism criteria are left on the street in exploding embarasingly visible failiure numbers.or dissapeared by banning orders and PSPO move on orders it sickens me.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I wrote about the new conditionality in housing in 2017, as I claimed DHP, and it felt like an Atos assessment. Agree with everything in your comment. Basically, the Tories have already removed the safety net. They just can’t tell the public because they know there will be a backlash


  3. Torbay has a “history” of thoroughly unpleasant Tories and their cruel and vindictive ideas. Some years ago now a Tory Councillor in Torbay publicly bemoaned the fact that there were no workhouses. Some extremely unpleasant people there.


  4. Quite. I have dents in my head from banging it against brick walls for so long. My first protest demo was in 1970, I was 13. So for 48 years I’ve been shouting about the same stuff …I don’t blame myself taking a back seat now. It’s soul destroying. I’m looking forward to reading your email which I can see is about cats. I get the heavy, depressing emails out the way first, so that I can then unwind with some nice ones!

    Sent from here 🇵🇹


    Liked by 1 person

  5. The mental health wards of Britain are full of the homeless. The NHS views time on a ward as stability. The ward is used as a form of shelter. It is only from a ward that you can gain access to assistance in claiming a flat/accommodation, really, in the light of the current use of categories of claimants – only the serious cases get attention which means hospital attendance. If one avails oneself of the NHS system and allows it to function for one, one may be allocated life-supporting accommodation. May. However, this does not mean it is not a denigrating system, rendering one to a region called Sub-par, where everything requires a representative or an advocate and these are supplied by/through the NHS too. In a time when there are so many complaints about the lack of legal aid, I have yet to hear of a service user being refused access to legal aid for a mental health tribunal. It’s a gravy train.


  6. My son has had mental health problems for years and has previously been sectioned. He was made homeless 6 months ago and had hoped for help. Instead he has an ESA assessment recently and was found fit to work and his money was stopped. He can’t look for work, with his mental health problems and being homeless so he now has no home, no income and no way to get his essential medication. He had very little to live for and now he’s had his only means of survival taken away. I hate this government

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My local council puts homelessness in the third highest need group, below overcrowding and under-occupation. I really don’t understand how they are more important than actually putting a roof over someone’s head


    1. Perhaps if they funded education properly they wouldn’t need to seek advice on a sticking plaster. How many mental health issues has austerity caused right across the social spectrum.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve been illegally evicted TWICE in a row with the assisstsnce of Torbay council and public enemy number one. I’ve been abused by “landlords” and “agencies.”

    Oh there’s MUCH more.

    I’m producing a very damning documentary on the real truth of Torbay and how its vulnerable are treated.

    I’m suicidal and will be taking my life, upon a big public disclosure.

    What I’m about to disclose, is sickening.

    The distress that I’m in, is insurmountable.


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