COURT OF APPEAL (CIVIL DIVISION)
London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
LORD JUSTICE LAWS
LORD JUSTICE KEENE
| The QUEEN|
On the application of W
|- and -|
|MAYOR AND BURGESSES OF THE LONDON BOROUGH OF LAMBETH|
Smith Bernal Reporting Limited, 190 Fleet Street
London EC4A 2AG
Tel No: 020 7421 4040, Fax No: 020 7831 8838
Official Shorthand Writers to the Court)
James Goudie QC & Charles Béar (instructed by Sternberg, Read, Taylor, Gill) for the defendant
AS APPROVED BY THE COURT
Crown Copyright ©
In this case W, the mother of two children born in 1987 and 1998, was evicted from her home in February 2001. She was found by the local housing authority (Lambeth) to be intentionally homeless because there were substantial arrears of rent. She applied immediately to the local social services authority (also Lambeth) for assistance in securing private sector housing for herself and her two children as a family unit, but that authority declined to help her. She was able to find temporary accommodation with a niece between August 2001 and January 2002. She said that no other member of her family was then able to help her to house her family.
At her solicitors’ request Lambeth social services carried out assessments of the needs of her two children in January 2001. The assessing officer found nothing exceptional in the case and said that the council’s social services department did not provide accommodation for families (para 10). These proceedings were initiated to challenge the result of those assessments.
Maurice Kay J refused permission to apply for judicial review on the ground that he was bound by the majority decision of the Court of Appeal in R(A) v Lambeth LBC  EWCA Civ 1624, (2001) 4 CCLR 486 (see paras 9-15). On 4th March 2002 Elias J held that a local authority had power pursuant to section 2 of the Local Government Act 2000 to assist a family in circumstances like these (see paras 19-20). On 8th March 2002 the Court of Appeal granted W permission to apply for judicial review and directed that the substantive application be heard by the Court of Appeal (para 1). On 9th April the council completed further assessments of the children's needs on the basis, which it disputed, that it did have power to provide assistance to the family. It again declined to make the provision sought (paras 78-81). It was these assessments which were under challenge at the hearing (para 1).
In the judgment of the court the Court of Appeal has now held that the majority decision of R(A) v Lambeth was made without full citation of all the relevant statutes and that it was therefore not obliged to follow it (para 73). It held that a local social services authority does possess the power under section 17 of the Children Act 1989 to help a family who have been found to be intentionally homeless (or are otherwise not entitled to help from their local housing authority) with assistance towards their housing needs as a family, and that the enactment of that Act did not alter the position which had previously existed under section 1 of the Child Care Act 1980, so far as the authority’s powers are concerned. Whether the authority chooses to exercise its powers is a matter for its discretion, and the Court of Appeal declined to interfere with Lambeth’s decision in the present case (paras 83-87).
The court expressed the hope that Lambeth’s children and families division would reconsider the case of W and her family carefully in the light of its judgment (para 87).
|2.||The facts: a brief summary||2|
|3.||No relief for W under housing legislation||4|
|4.||The Children Act 1989||5|
|5.||Three recent cases: G, A and J||7|
|6.||The arguments on the appeal||21|
|7.||The pressures besetting Lambeth||23|
|8.||Was A decided per incuriam?||25|
|9.||The principles to apply||29|
|10.||Mr Howell’s arguments||31|
|11.||Two other rules of statutory interpretation||35|
|12.||The earlier caselaw: Tilley and Monaf||45|
|13.||The policy of Part III of the Children Act||61|
|14.||The Immigration & Asylum Act 1999||64|
|15.||Section 17A of the Children Act||70|
|16.||A must have been decided differently on fuller statutory citation||73|
|17.||Section 2 of the Local Government Act 2000||74|
|18.||Mr Bielby’s second assessment||76|
|19.||Further evidence by W and her mother||76|
|Appendix 1||W and her history||88|
|Appendix 2||Help for homeless families from the social services department:|
|Appendix 3||Lambeth; its financial difficulties and competing pressures||124|
Lord Justice Brooke : This is the judgment of the court.
2. The facts: a brief summary
3. No relief for W under housing legislation
4. The Children Act 1989
Provision of services for children and their families (ss 17 -19)
Provision of accommodation for children (ss 20-21)
Duties of local authorities in relation to children looked after by them (ss 22-23)
Advice and assistance for certain children (s 24)
Secure accommodation (s 25)
Supplemental (ss 26-30).
Sections 17(2), 23(9) and 29(6) also provide links with Schedule 2 of the Act, and the provisions of paragraph 7 of Part I of that schedule featured in the argument before us.
“17 Provision of services for children in need, their families and others
(1) It shall be the general duty of every local authority (in addition to the other duties imposed on them by this Part) -
(a) to safeguard and promote the welfare of children within their area who are in need; and
(b) so far as is consistent with that duty, to promote the upbringing of such children by their families
by providing a range and level of services appropriate to those children's needs.
(2) For the purpose principally of facilitating the discharge of their general duty under this section, every local authority shall have the specific duties and powers set out in Part I of Schedule 2.
(3) Any service provided by an authority in the exercise of functions conferred on them by this section may be provided for the family of a particular child in need … if it is provided with a view to safeguarding or promoting the child’s welfare.
(5) Every local authority –
(a) shall facilitate the provision by others (including in particular voluntary organisations) of services which the authority have power to provide by virtue of this section, or sections 18, 20, 23, 23B to 23D, 24A or 24B;
(6) The services provided by a local authority in the exercise of functions conferred on them by this section may include giving assistance in kind or, in exceptional circumstances, in cash.
(7) Assistance may be unconditional or subject to conditions as to the repayment of the assistance or its value (in whole or in part).
(9) No person shall be liable to make any repayment of assistance or of its value at any time when he is in receipt of income support …
(10) For the purposes of this Part a child shall be taken to be in need if
(a) he is unlikely to achieve or maintain, or to have the opportunity of achieving or maintaining, a reasonable standard of health or development without the provision for him of services by a local authority under this Part;
and “family” in relation to such a child, includes any person who has parental responsibility for the child …
17A Direct Payments
(1) Instead of providing services in the exercise of functions conferred on them by section 17, a local authority may make to a person falling within subsection (2) (if he consents) a payment of such amount as, subject to subsections (5) and (6), they think fit in respect of his securing the provision of any of the services which the local authority would otherwise have provided.
(2) The following fall within this subsection –
(a) a person with parental responsibility for a disabled child;
(b) a disabled child aged 16 or 17.
(4) The Secretary of State may by regulations provide that the power conferred by subsection (1) is not to be exercisable in relation to the provision of residential accommodation for any person for a period exceeding a prescribed period.
20. Provision of accommodation for children: general
(1) Every local authority shall provide accommodation for any child in need within their area who appears to them to require accommodation as a result of -
(c) the person who has been caring for him being prevented (whether or not permanently, and for whatever reason) from providing him with suitable accommodation or care.
22. General duty of local authority in relation to children looked after by them
(1) In this Act, any reference to a child who is looked after by a local authority is a reference to a child who is -
(a) in their care; or
(b) provided with accommodation by the authority in the exercise of any functions (in particular those under this Act) which stand referred to their social services committee under the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970...
23. Provision of accommodation and maintenance by local authority for children whom they are looking after
(1) It shall be the duty of any local authority looking after a child –
(a) when he is in their care, to provide accommodation for him; and
(b) to maintain him in other respects apart from providing accommodation for him.
(6) Subject to any regulations made by the Secretary of State for the purposes of this subsection, any local authority looking after a child shall make arrangements to enable him to live with
(a) [the parent of that child]
unless that would not be reasonably practicable or consistent with his welfare.
27. Co-operation between authorities:
(1) Where it appears to a local authority that any authority mentioned in subsection (3) could, by taking any specified action, help in the exercise of any of their functions under this Part, they may request the help of that other authority, specifying the action in question.
(2) An authority whose help is so requested shall comply with the request if it is compatible with their own statutory or other duties and obligations and does not unduly prejudice the discharge of any of their functions.
(3) The [authorities] are –
( c) a local housing authority .
(1) Nothing in this Part shall affect any duty imposed on a local authority by or under any enactment.”
It should also be noted that section 24B(4), which has been inserted by section 4(1) of the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2001 into that part of Part III which is concerned with “advice and assistance”, places a duty on a local authority to provide a “qualifying” person under the age of 24 who is in full-time further or higher education with suitable accommodation during the vacation (or a payment to enable him to secure such accommodation himself) if his term-time accommodation is not available to him then. We mention this to show that provisions expressly dealing with accommodation are not confined to sections 20 to 23 of the Act.
5. Three recent cases: G, A and J
"[Counsel] places section 23(6) at the forefront of his case. In his submission section 23(6) means that the only lawful step for a local authority in circumstances like these is to offer accommodation to mother and child. If he is right, such a far reaching duty would leave the Social Services Department with practically no discretion, would impose considerable strain on their stretched resources, and would render Part VII of the Housing Act 1996 virtually irrelevant where the intentionally homeless person is a parent with young children. I would be astonished to find that such a hugely important social provision should be hidden away in the sixth sub-section of the seventh section in Part III of the Children Act. The Children Act was indeed a great reforming statute, but I would have expected that if the reforms went that far they would find a more prominent place in the statutory framework and be spelt out in clearer language than is urged upon us."
"In my view it would be an extraordinary result - and one which, in the absence of clear words, I cannot hold to reflect the intention of Parliament - if the carefully structured provisions of the housing legislation, which are plainly intended to provide a fair allocation of resources amongst those with housing needs, were to be overridden, in specific cases, by recourse to section 17(1) of the Children Act 1989."
"It would be wholly impractical for a local authority such as Lambeth to have to decide whether a duty to provide accommodation under section 17 of the Children Act 1989 in such a case as this family should override or take precedence over an established need within the Housing Act."
“It is not disputed that the child is a child in need. Moreover, until the decision of the Court of Appeal [in A], it was assumed that the local authority could provide accommodation for a child under this provision, and house her family at the same time under section 17(3). Indeed, I am informed that intentionally homeless families were regularly housed under this provision, thereby avoiding a break-up of the family and saving the authority the cost of taking the child into care. The claimant accepts that this is no longer possible, at least absent a claim that her human rights have been adversely affected.”
6. The arguments on the appeal
(i) The case of J was wrongly decided, and section 2 of LGA 2000 gives the council no power to assist;
(ii) A was not decided per incuriam, and only the House of Lords had the authority to overrule it, if it saw fit;
(iii) Arguments founded on the ECHR Article 8(1) rights of W and her children could not avail them, notwithstanding Elias J’s obiter observations to contrary effect.
(i) A was decided per incuriam, and that this court was therefore entitled to revisit the question of the interpretation of section 17 unfettered by binding authority. If it did so it should hold that this section did give the council the power to assist this family;
(ii) J was correctly decided, so that in any event the council had power to help the family under section 2 of the LGA 2000;
(iii) If both his earlier contentions were wrong, then the court should interpret section 17 in the manner now permitted by section 3 of the HRA 1998 in order to avoid a violation of the ECHR Article 8(1) rights of W and her children. (There was no application for a declaration of ECHR incompatibility in this case).
Even if he succeeded in his contention that the council had the power to help this family, Mr Howell faced the further hurdle of showing that the council’s act of declining help in the exercise of the powers it assumed that it possessed was unlawful, such that this court could interfere with the outcome of the section 17 re-assessment.
7. The pressures besetting Lambeth
8. Was A decided per incuriam?
9. The principles to apply
“The importance of the rule of stare decisis in relation to the Court of Appeal’s own decisions can hardly be overstated. We now sometimes sit in eight divisions and, in the absence of such a rule, the law would quickly become wholly uncertain. However the rule is not without exceptions, albeit very limited. These exceptions were considered in Young v Bristol Aeroplane Co Ltd  KB 718; Morelle Ltd v Wakeling  2 QB 379 and, more recently, in Williams v Fawcett  QB 604, relevant extracts from the two earlier decisions being set out at pp 615-616 of the report. These decisions show that this court is justified in refusing to follow one of its own previous decisions not only where that decision is given in ignorance or forgetfulness of some inconsistent statutory provision or some authority binding upon it, but also, in rare and exceptional cases, if it is satisfied that the decision involved a manifest slip or error.”
“I have always understood that the doctrine of per incuriam only applies where another division of this court has reached a decision in the absence of knowledge of a decision binding upon it or a statute, and that in either case it has to be shown that, had the court had this material, it must have reached a contrary decision. That is per incuriam. I do not understand the doctrine to extend to a case where, if different arguments had been place before it or if different material had been placed before it, it might have reached a different conclusion. That appears to me to be the position at which we have arrived today.”
10. Mr Howell’s arguments
11. Two other rules of statutory interpretation
“Where it appears that an enactment proceeds upon a mistaken view of earlier law, the question may arise whether this effects a change in that law (apart from any amendment directly made by the enactment). Here it is necessary to remember that, except when legislating, Parliament has no power authoritatively to interpret the law. That function belongs to the judiciary alone. … A mere inference that Parliament has mistaken the nature or effect of some legal rule does not in itself amount to a declaration that the rule is other than what it is. However, the view taken by Parliament as to the legal meaning of a doubtful enactment may be treated as of persuasive, though not binding, authority.”
“So the question is whether the terms of those paragraphs are such as merely to indicate a belief or whether they can be interpreted as enacting by implication that which Parliament, having its erroneous belief, did not find it necessary to enact expressly. In such circumstances I would not be averse to holding that there was an enactment by implication, but first I must be able to discover precisely what Parliament’s belief was. Section 30 of the Finance Act 1940 may well contain such an enactment; it is there made clear that Parliament believed that there was already a right to a certain deduction and the scheme of the section will not work unless there is such a right, so it is not difficult to imply the enactment of that right. But the whole section is limited to cases which are covered by an Order in Council and it is not possible to imply any enactment which goes beyond the scope of the section. There has been no Order in Council which could apply to the present case, and therefore, in my judgment, even if section 30 were held to contain by implication an enactment authorising deductions such as those claimed by the respondents, that would not help them as they are outside the scope of the section.”
“[The relevant paragraph in the schedule to the 1939 Act] is very misleading but to mislead a taxpayer is not the same thing as to entitle him to relief. It may well be that these paragraphs show that Parliament was under a misapprehension as to the existing law at the time, but it does not necessarily follow that if Parliament had been correctly informed it would have altered the law. It is one thing to leave an old deduction untouched and quite another thing to enact for the first time a new deduction of a new kind.”
“No doubt the position would be different if the provisions of the [later] enactment were such that they would only be workable if the law was as Parliament supposed it to be.”
“It has long been a well established principle to be applied in the consideration of Acts of Parliament that where a word of doubtful meaning has received a clear judicial interpretation, the subsequent statute which incorporates the same word or the same phrase in a similar context, must be construed so that the word or phrase is interpreted according to the meaning that has previously been assigned to it.”
12. The earlier caselaw: Tilley and Monaf
“1. (1) It shall be the duty of every local authority to make available such advice, guidance and assistance as may promote the welfare of children by diminishing the need to receive children into or keep them in care under the Children Act 1948, the principal Act or the principal Scottish Act or to bring children before a juvenile court; and any provisions made by a local authority under this subsection may, if the local authority think fit, include provision for giving assistance in kind or, in exceptional circumstances, in cash.
(3) Where any provision which may be made by a local authority under subsection (1) of this section is made (whether by that or any other authority) under any other enactment the local authority shall not be required to make the provision under this section but shall have power to do so.”
The language of the similar provision of the 1980 Act is identical, with the single exception that the words “under this Act” replace the rather longer provisions in sub-section (1) of the 1963 Act.
“In my judgment, however, that is a misconstruction of the Act. The Act is dealing with children who are taken into care under the Act of 1948. This can happen, as I have already indicated, if the parents are unable to provide accommodation for the child, and the Act of 1963 provides that, if there is a lack of accommodation, the council must try to deal with the situation by some other method than taking the child into care. To my mind, the word ‘assistance’ in section 1(1) of the Act of 1963 clearly includes the provision of accommodation and then provides that the general powers of a local authority shall include specific powers. The specific powers do not cut down the general powers of the local authority in the way that [counsel] argues and that would prevent that authority from diminishing the need to receive children into care by providing them with accommodation or by paying for accommodation.”
“It would indeed be a startling result if they were, since it would seem to make nonsense of Part III of the Housing Act 1985. But once that concession is made, then the extent of the assistance to be provided under section 1, and the manner in which the assistance is to be provided, must be for the local authority to decide.”
“It might be thought at first sight that in so far as these applicants were intentionally homeless (and the point only arises if they were) then they had not been prevented from providing accommodation within the meaning of section 2(1)(b) of the 1980 Act. It might also be thought at first sight that section 1 of the Act has nothing whatever to do with the provision of housing even on a temporary basis. But the Court of Appeal has decided otherwise in the case of Att-Gen ex rel Tilley v Wandsworth London Borough Council  1 WLR 854.”
“On the basis that the children of intentionally homeless persons do fall within section 1 of this Act, it seems to me that that section has to be considered in two parts: the first part imposing a duty; the second, a power and a discretion. But I do not accept that the first part imposes a duty to provide accommodation or cash in lieu. The proper way to read the section so as to relate the two parts is, in my view, as follows: ‘It shall be the duty of every local authority to make available such advice, guidance and assistance (which may, if the local authority think fit, include provision for giving assistance in kind or in exceptional circumstances in cash) as may promote the welfare, etc’. If this is how the section is to be read, then both the question whether to provide accommodation or cash in lieu and the extent of any such provision is a matter for the discretion of the authority and its provision is not a matter of duty.”
“The approach in 1963 as appears from the Circular would, therefore, be: (a) that there should be co-operation between the housing and welfare departments subject to the obvious difficulties where two different authorities are involved; (b) that assistance should be given in the short term to the housing department, where such assistance will avoid the reception into care of children affected by homelessness; (c) that the welfare services have no duty to take over the long term functions of the housing departments; (d) that section 1 of the 1963 Act applies equally to children being taken into voluntary care, or under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court; (e) that in the normal case, the welfare of the children will be served if the family unit is preserved and that this must be an argument for providing accommodation, at least in the short term.”
“By the same token, in passing the 1985 Act with its special provision relating to homeless persons having a priority need because, inter alia, of dependent children, if the boundaries of this duty were to be affected by the then existing duties imposed upon the local authority by section 1 of the 1980 Act, reference might be expected to have been made by Parliament to that Act.
It is clear from the papers before us that the interaction of these two lines of statutory power and duty has caused considerable anxiety in those responsible for administering these parts of the statutory code. The 1977 Act deals with the provision of ‘bricks and mortar’ in the form of a home in certain circumstances. In the case of those with a priority need, the provision of a home is promoted above those who are achieving normal priority on the housing list. This acts prejudicially to the ordinary inhabitants and ratepayers of the area and is justified as a matter of hardship and emergency in line with the considerations based on section 21(1)(b) of the National Assistance Act as developed through the subsequent legislation. However, where a family is intentionally homeless, the long term provision as a matter of priority of accommodation for the purposes of establishing a home is withdrawn.
If it were not to be withdrawn on this ground where the welfare of the children was involved, the intentionally homeless provisions would not have been applied to that particular category of applicant. It was clearly the intention of Parliament in 1977 that this should be so; families with dependent children should be classified as having a priority need, but that those who were intentionally homeless should not receive special treatment beyond that provided in section 65(3) of the 1985 Act. This does not deprive the children, however, of receiving under section 1 of the 1980 Act such assistance, where appropriate, in the form of accommodation as emergency short term relief to prevent the necessity to take them into care.” (Emphasis added).
“Local authorities therefore have a duty to consider each case on its merits to decide whether it is appropriate to give assistance (including provision of accommodation) to diminish the need for reception orders into care …
The Director of Social Services must accordingly examine each case where reception into care is likely and decide whether by providing temporary accommodation the welfare of children in the family would be promoted by diminishing the need for their reception into care. If he considers that this would be the case then the Council’s duty is to make such provisions. … It will be evident that there is often an over-lap between the duties of a local authority under the provisions of Part 3 of the Housing Act 1985 to provide temporary accommodation and those contained in section 1 of the Child Care Act 1980. The provisions in the latter Act are not however concerned with such questions as to whether the family are intentionally homeless and perhaps at the end of the day the same Council would foot the bill irrespective of the Department involved.”
13. The policy of Part III of the children Act
(1) That Parliament decided to widen the powers of local authorities to safeguard and promote the children in need in their areas and to promote the upbringing of such children by their families by imposing on them a much more widely embracing “target duty” than that contained in section 1 of the Child Care Act 1980 which the 1989 Act replaced (see the broad terms of section 17).
(2) That the range and level of services appropriate to such children’s needs which local authorities were now under a duty to provide might include giving assistance in kind, or in exceptional circumstances in cash (section 17(6)), but these words on the face of them do not confine the power of a local authority, if they think fit, to provide temporary accommodation for an intentionally homeless family (in order to prevent the break-up of that family and the potential damage to the children involved) any more than the presence of the same words did in Tilley (see para 49 above).
(3) That the word “services” which appears in section 17(1) is capable of encompassing the provision of accommodation is made quite clear in section 17(5)(a), which makes it clear that this expression encompasses not only day care (see section 18) and advice and assistance (see section 24) but also the provision of accommodation (see sections 20, 23 and 24B). The same wide meaning of the word “services” is also apparent in Part I of Schedule 2 of the Act.
(4) That in relation to the accommodation of children in need (as opposed to their families), Parliament decided to remove them from the category of persons for whom provision was made in section 21(1)(a) of the National Assistance Act 1948 (1989 Act Sched 13, para 11(1)) and to make the more detailed provision contained in section 20 of the 1989 Act.
14. The Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
“Those who are ineligible for any assistance under the homelessness legislation are thus primarily:
(i) those who are not British citizens or nationals of an EEA state
(a) who require leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom but do not have it (including asylum seekers);
(b) who have leave to enter or remain but whose leave is subject to a condition that they do not have recourse to public funds;
(c) who have such leave given as a result of a maintenance undertaking, and
(ii) those who are not yet habitually resident in the Common Travel Area unless they have certain community and European Economic Area rights to reside here.”
“(1) In this section ‘eligible person’ means a person who appears to the Secretary of State to be a person for whom support may be provided under section 95.
(2) Subsections (3) and (4) apply if an application for support under section 95 has been made by an eligible person whose household includes a dependant under the age of 18 (‘the child’).
(3) If it appears to the Secretary of State that adequate accommodation is not being provided for the child, he must exercise his powers under section 95 by offering, and if his offer is accepted by providing or arranging for the provision of, adequate accommodation for the child as part of the eligible person’s household.
(4) If it appears to the Secretary of State that essential living needs of the child are not being met, he must exercise his powers under section 95 by offering, and if his offer is accepted by providing or arranging for the provision of, essential living needs for the child as part of the eligible person’s household.
(5) No local authority may provide assistance under any of the child welfare provisions in respect of a dependant under the age of 18, or any member of his family, at any time when –
(a) the Secretary of State is complying with this section in relation to him; or
(b) there are reasonable grounds for believing that –
(i) the person concerned is a person for whom support may be provided under section 95; and
(ii) the Secretary of State would be required to comply with this section if that person had made an application under section 95.
(6) ‘Assistance’ means the provision of accommodation or of any essential living needs.
(7) ‘The child welfare provisions’ means –
(a) section 17 of the Children Act 1989 (local authority support for children and their families);
(b) section 22 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 (equivalent provision for Scotland); and
(c) Article 18 of the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 (equivalent provision for Northern Ireland).
(8) Subsection (9) applies if accommodation provided in the discharge of the duty imposed by subsection (3) has been withdrawn.
(9) Only the relevant authority may provide assistance under any of the child welfare provisions in respect of the child concerned.
(10) ‘Relevant authority’ means –
(a) in relation to Northern Ireland, the authority within whose area the withdrawn accommodation was provided;
(b) in any other case, the local authority within whose area the withdrawn accommodation was provided.
(11) In such circumstances as may be prescribed, subsection (5) does not apply.”
15. Section 17A of the Children Act
16. A must have been decided differently on fuller statutory citation
17. Section 2 of the Local Government Act 2000
18. Mr Bielby’s second assessment
“Section 17(6) requires exceptional circumstances for the local authority to provide financial assistance. [W] currently finds herself homeless and without the means to secure suitable accommodation, having been evicted from her previous flat due to a failure to pay rent. I do not consider these circumstances to be exceptional. Regrettably many families find themselves in this situation. [W] is not exceptional by the way of being a single parent caring for two children. This would not be considered exceptional. Neither would being evicted for rent arrears constitute exceptional circumstances in this particular case. The arrears accrued whilst [W] was gainfully employed, which would appear to be exceptional through being in a position to have begun the process of clearing the arrears. However, [W] did say that she did set up a direct debit with the housing association, but they still went ahead with the eviction.”
“(A) [W] is typical of somebody who has been found intentionally homeless. Indeed she has something of an advantage compared to some other families ie [W] has a close and extended family with the locality. [W] is a warm and capable mother who has up until recently had a work history. Therefore, the Local Authority would take the view that to provide accommodation for [W] and children would mean in effect having to do so for all of the families that have been found intentionally homeless. This would lead to assessments under the housing legislation being redundant. It would also divert resources from other service users.
(B) The cost of providing accommodation under section 20 varies according to who the children are placed with and the length of the placement. At some point it would become more expensive to use section 20 than to provide financial assistance to enable [W] to obtain accommodation in the private sector (eg by provision of a deposit and payment of the first months rent). However, the cost of providing such assistance in all cases where the presenting problem is one of homelessness would be much greater than the cost of providing Section 20 accommodation in this case.”
19. Further evidence by W and her mother
20. Our conclusion
“Placing children in voluntary care is always traumatic and can cause irreversible damage to the children and the families involved. Perversely, the consequences in the long term can mean that the children involved are more likely to end up on the streets in later life. Between one-quarter and one-third of people sleeping rough were taken into local authority care as children. When families are torn apart and children taken into care, the child’s life is severely disrupted. Moving schools during such a traumatic time can severely affect their education and prospects in the long term.”