Rough sleepers and benefits

A person who was claiming Income Support, Jobseeker's Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance before s/he lost her/his accommodation may have her/his benefit reduced whilst s/he does not have accommodation.

This content applies to Scotland

Reduction in premium

This will happen if the person who is claiming Income Support, Jobseeker's Allowance (income based) or Employment and Support Allowance (income related) is receiving an additional amount in her/his benefit because s/he is disabled or a pensioner; s/he will not receive this additional amount while s/he does not have any accommodation. [1] This issue has been brought before the courts on the basis that this contravened Human Rights legislation but the challenge was unsuccessful. This decision was confirmed by the House of Lords which dismissed a further appeal. [2]

Definition of accommodation

Guidance from the Department of Work and Pensions states that 'accommodation' is shelter from the elements that is capable of being heated, and in which the occupants can sit, lie down, cook and eat, and that is reasonably suited for continuous accommodation. [3] This then would not include cardboard boxes, sleeping bags, bus shelters, or park benches. [4]

The accommodation may be moved from day to day, but the structure must be habitable. [5] Cars cannot be included as accommodation, [6] although a motor home suited to continuous occupation can be. [7]

Last updated: 9 December 2019


  • [1]

    sch.7 para.6 Income Support (General Regulations) 1987 SI 1987/1967

  • [2]

    For the House of Lords judgement, see R. (on the application of M) v Secretary Of State for Work and Pensions [2008] UKHL 63; [2009] 1 A.C. 311; [2008] 3 WLR 1023;[2009] 2 All ER 556; [2009] HRLR. The claimant in this case had mental health problems and had periods where he was sleeping rough. The disability premium was paid to him when he had somewhere to stay but not when he was sleeping rough.

  • [3]

    para.24158 Decision Makers Guide

  • [4]

    para.24159 Decision Makers Guide

  • [5]

    para.24159 Decision Makers Guide

  • [6]

    para.24160 Decision Makers Guide

  • [7]

    para.24161 Decision Makers Guide