A local authority was ordered to provide interim accommodation to a seven-year-old child and his mother pending the hearing of his judicial review application of the decision that he was not a child in need under the Children Act 1989 s.17. He and his mother would be unable to obtain appropriate accommodation in the interim.
Abstract The claimant child applied for interim relief pending the hearing of his judicial review application of the defendant local authority's decision that he was not a child in need under the Children Act 1989 s.17.
The child, aged seven, was a French citizen but had lived with his mother in the UK for his whole life. The mother was a Gambian national who had overstayed on a visitor's visa. She was refused a residence card and was in the process of challenging that decision. She was not entitled to housing assistance due to her immigration status. She and the child had been evicted from
1 R. (on the application of N) v Greenwich LBC, 2016 WL 02996985 (2016) their accommodation and applied to the local authority for housing. The local authority produced an assessment report and refused housing; the child applied for judicial review of that decision but the mother did not have funds to obtain accommodation in the interim.
The child submitted that the decision that he was not a child in need under s.17 was unreasonable and irrational, that the Immigration Act 2014 s.21 deprived the mother of the right to rent privately due to her immigration status, and that they would become homeless without interim accommodation. He further contended that the conclusion of assessment as to alternative accommodation was insufficient and unreasonable. The local authority submitted that they could stay with friends or family members, or in a bed and breakfast.
Held Application granted.
The mother and child would be unable to obtain appropriate accommodation. The assessment report had suggested friends or family as a fallback in the short term while the mother found accommodation, but it had not identified particular individuals. Further, if it was correct that the mother would be prevented from being able to rent privately due to s.21 of the 2014 Act, then there was no immediate prospect of her finding suitable accommodation in the short term. The suggestion that they stay in a bed and breakfast had not been considered in the assessment report, and the actual cost of it compared with the mother's resources had not been properly considered (see paras 8-9 of judgment).
The question was whether there was a strong prima facie case that the child's application for judicial review would succeed. Where s.17 of the 1989 Act was engaged, it did not of itself impose a duty on the local authority, but gave rise to a discretion, to be read alongside other duties including those under ECHR art.8, and under s.20 of the 1989 Act to house homeless children. The interrelationship between s.17 and those other duties could cause that discretion to become a duty where a child would otherwise be homeless or destitute, R. (on the application of O) v Lambeth LBC  EWHC 937 (Admin), (2016) 19 C.C.L. Rep. 626,  4 WLUK 625 considered. The child had a strong prima facie case. As for the balance of convenience, in challenges to public authorities the presumption was to uphold a reasonable decision, and to consider the authority's resources. The court considered the s.20 duty to ensure a child was not homeless, the local authority's limited resources, the fact that interim housing relief could disincentivise a family from finding its own accommodation, and the alleged impact that the instant case could have on other cases affected by s.21 of the 2014 Act. It would be a significant detriment to the child if he did not have appropriate accommodation and if he were separated from his mother, when he had never been separated from her. The balance of convenience was on the child's side, and the local authority had to provide accommodation until the judicial review application was heard (paras 10-16).