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England and Wales High Court (Administrative Court) Decisions
You are here: BAILII >> Databases >> England and Wales High Court (Administrative Court) Decisions >> Jalal, R (On the Application Of) v Royal Borough of Greenwich  EWHC 1848 (Admin) (27 July 2016)
Cite as:  EWHC 1848 (Admin)
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QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
| The Queen on the application of MR HASSAN JALAL
|- and -
|ROYAL BOROUGH OF GREENWICH
Mr Leon Glenister (instructed by LB of Greenwich) for the Defendant
Hearing date: 5 July 2016
Crown Copyright ©
Mr John Bowers QC :
a) in a letter of 21 January 2016 refusing to provide accommodation under section 17;
b) in a letter dated 3 February 2016 confirming the refusal of accommodation, notwithstanding that further information had been provided by the Claimant.
a) In light of the Claimant's continued inability to find a home, the subsequent refusals to provide interim accommodation pending a re-assessment of the family's need were irrational. It was said to be inconsistent to assert that the children were "not in need" after that date (letter of 3 February 2016). Moreover it is contended that in the circumstances no reasonable social services authority would have refused to accommodate pending a reassessment;
b) The most recent refusal of accommodation on 3 February was based on a rejection of the veracity of the Claimant's account as to his efforts to secure accommodation. That is said to be procedurally unfair because this was the first time any doubts had been raised about the Claimant's account and he had been given no opportunity to respond. It was contended to be irrational because the Defendant had no adequate basis for rejecting the account.
c) Insofar as the Defendant refused assistance under section 17 on the basis that the children could be placed in care, it is alleged that the Defendant acted in breach of Article 8 ECHR read together with section 11 Children Act 2004.
05/11/15 The Claimant requests an assessment under Children Act 1989 from social services.
11/11/15 The family are visited by a social worker
03/12/15 The Defendant issues a decision confirming that the Claimant is intentionally homeless. The Claimant is given notice to quit his temporary accommodation on 04/1/16
07/12/15 The Claimant's solicitor asks that accommodation be extended by the housing service, alternatively by social services pending the Children Act assessment.
29/12/15 The Defendant "signs off" the Child & Family Assessment (CFA) which states, "The children are not considered to be children in need. Their parents have the means to accommodate and adequately support them"
04/01/16 The Defendant discloses the assessment. Accommodation is extended by the housing service to 10 January "without prejudice"
07/01/16 The Defendant emails stating that accommodation will be extended to 29/01/16
21/01/16 The Defendant issues two decision letters. The housing service state the temporary accommodation will cease on 31/01/16. In a letter dated 15/01/16 social services refuse to accommodate after that date. The letter states the Claimant has the means to secure accommodation and that if he does not do so then the Defendant will "conclude …you lack the sufficient skills to parent and provide for your children appropriately and a Strategy Discussion will be held".
03/02/16 The Claimant served a statement. This sets out the steps he has taken to find accommodation, and states he has been offered a tenancy from 01/04/16. The Defendant's legal team write in response again refusing accommodation and setting out reasons
18/03/16 The Claimant files a second witness statement setting out steps taken to secure accommodation. The offer of a tenancy from 01/04/16 has fallen through
27/06/16 A further offer of a tenancy to commence 01/07/16 falls through.
(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.
a) A child who is homeless is a child in need: paras 19, 64, 99, 106, 125.
b) Local authorities are under a duty to assess the needs of any child within their area who appears to be in need: paras 32, 64, 77, 110, 117.
c) The duty to safeguard and promote welfare under section 17 does not however impose any enforceable duty to meet the unmet needs of any particular child, even where those needs have been identified on assessment. Rather it confers a power to provide assistance in any particular case, the refusal to exercise which may be challengeable on the usual reasonableness and proportionality grounds which are available in judicial review: paras 91, 94 (Lord Hope), 106, 110 (Lord Millet), 135-136 (Lord Scott).
Sections 20 and 47 of the 1989 Act
"26. Under the Children Act 1989, local authorities are required to provide services for children in need for the purposes of safeguarding and promoting their welfare. Local authorities undertake assessments of the needs of individual children to determine which services to provide and what action to take….
29. Whatever legislation the child is assessed under, the purpose of the assessment is always:
- to gather important information about a child and family;
- to analyse their needs and/or the nature and level of any risk and harm being suffered by the child;
- to decide whether the child is a child in need (section 17) and/or is suffering or likely to suffer, significant harm (section 47).
30. Assessment should be a dynamic process, which analyses and responds to the changing nature and level of need and/or risk faced by the child. …A good assessment will monitor and record the impact of any services delivered to the child and family and review the help being delivered.
35. High quality assessments: …
are rooted in child development and informed by evidence;
- are focused on action and outcomes for children;…
- involve children and families;…
- are integrated in approach;
- are a continuing process not an event;
- lead to action, including the provision of services…;
44. A high quality assessment is one in which evidence is built and revised throughout the process.
A social worker may arrive at a judgement early in the case but this may need to be revised as the case progresses and further information comes to light.
50. assessment is a dynamic and continuous process which should build upon the history of every individual case, responding to the impact of any previous services and analysing what further action might be needed…."
Housing Act 1996
SUBMISSIONS AND DISCUSSION
Firstly, the reason that the Claimant is in this position is because he unreasonably refused suitable accommodation offered by LB Wandsworth, which the Claimant claimed had presence of "moulds, damp, trances of rodent infestation". Wandsworth found the property to be in good condition and this decision was upheld by the County Court.
Decision to refuse accommodation irrational
"…the council's position remains as previously set out. The council is satisfied that your clients children are not in need and that your client has had sufficient opportunity to secure alternative accommodation."
"If you fail to find accommodation by [31 January], the council will have no alternative but to conclude in light of all the support and assistance you have been provided that you lack the sufficient skills to parent and provide for your children appropriately and a Strategy Discussion will have to be held. This is with the view to a S47 Children Act assessment which could result in your children being accommodated."
Second ground: Rejection of C's account irrational and procedurally unfair
Third ground: Breach of Article 8/ section 11 Children Act 2004
a) It is well-established that a failure to provide such basic welfare support as will enable family life to continue may amount to an interference with private and family life within the terms of Article 8 ECHR: Anufrijeva v Southwark LBC  QB 1124 at para 43.
b) It follows that in considering whether or not to provide such support, compliance with section 11 Children Act 2004 required that the Defendant regard the best interest of the Claimant's children as "a primary consideration" and comply with the principles set out at Zoumbas v Home Secretary  UKSC 74.
c) the Defendant manifestly did not comply with those principles. They failed to acknowledge that the best interests of the children were plainly for the family to remain accommodated together. They failed to identify and consider what other considerations could properly outweigh those best interests. Their focus on the issue of whether the Claimant had or had not in the past made sufficient attempts to secure accommodation ran directly against the principle that "a child must not be blamed for matters for which he or she is not responsible, such as the conduct of a parent".
d) A "Child & Family Assessment" based on an interview with the family carried out on 11 November and "signed off" by the Defendant's social workers on 29 December 2015.