The Power to Provide Services, Including Accommodation, to Families With Children

In order to facilitate the discharge of the general duty under s.17, authorities may provide services including providing accommodation, giving assistance in kind, or, in exceptional circumstances, cash: s. 17(6). Any service may be provided for the family of a particular child in need or for any member of his family, if it is provided with a view to safeguarding or promoting the child’s welfare: s. 17(3).

In R (AM) v Havering London Borough Council and another [2015] EWHC 1004 (Admin) [2015] P.T.S.R. 1242 Cobb J summarised (at paragraphs 33(iv) to (vi), and (xix) to (xx) the principles to be derived from the case law as follows:

(a) Section 17 does not impose a duty to provide services, or accommodation: R (G) v Barnet London Borough Council, paras 85, 93, 106, 135: “A child in need … is eligible for the provision of those services, but he has no absolute right to them” (see para 85); R (VC) v Newcastle City Council, paras 21 and 27.

(b) Any refusal to provide assessed services under Part III of the 1989 Act is amenable to challenge by way of judicial review: R (VC) v Newcastle City Council, para 25.

In this respect, it is a general principle of public law that discretionary statutory powers must be exercised to promote the policy objectives of the statute: Padfield v Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food [1968] AC 997 and R (J) v Worcestershire County Council [2015] PTSR 127, para 47;

As to the statutory objective Part III of the Children Act 1989 was intended to reflect the obligation in article 18.2 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) (Cm 1976) to render appropriate assistance to parents and legal guardians in the performance of their child-rearing responsibilities and to ensure the development of facilities and services for the care of children: R (G) v Barnet London Borough Council [2004] 2 AC 208.

(c) where there is an assessed need for services, any decision not to provide services will be subject to “strict and … sceptical scrutiny”: R (VC) v Newcastle City Council , para 26.

(d) In relation to the provision of housing/accommodation to a child in need, there is a specific and separate statutory code; although the local authority has the power to provide accommodation to a family under section 17, social services departments should not be converted into quasi-housing departments; section 17 is primarily designed to accommodate homeless children, not homeless families; in short, section 17 should not be construed in such a way as to “[drive] a coach and horses … through the housing legislation”: R (G) v Barnet London Borough Council, paras 45–47, 93, 138.

Consistent with the general duty in section 17(1)(b) to “promote the upbringing of children in need by their families”, the power to provide accommodation under section 17 will almost always concern children needing to be accommodated with their families: R (G) v Southwark LBC [2009] UKHL 29; [2009] 1 WLR 1299 at [30] per Baroness Hale.

Further, the local authority will be obliged to provide assistance where a failure to do so would result in a breach of the local authorities obligations under the Human Rights Act 1998, or a breach of its public law and other statutory obligations.

 

always concern children needing to be accommodated with their families: R (G) v Southwark LBC [2009] UKHL 29; [2009] 1 WLR 1299 at [30] per Baroness Hale.

Further, the local authority will be obliged to provide assistance where a failure to do so would result in a breach of the local authorities obligations under the Human Rights Act 1998, or a breach of its public law and other statutory obligations.