Out of Area Placements

Shelter has recently issued its 2012 statistics of homeless households who were temporarily accommodated outside London. 31 London councils provided data, which have revealed that out of 11513 households, 120 (or 1%) were accommodated more than 20 miles from the capital.

I think I can safely predict, given the imminent London-wide housing benefit cap, that the 2013 percentage will be significantly higher. Indeed, the signs are that out-of-area placements are becoming the norm rather than the exception.  The consequence of this will be more litigation and our attention has been drawn to a recent High Court challenge to a decision made by LB Newham to accommodate a family in Liverpool in performance of its s.193(2) duty (Loylu Begum v LB Newham CO/5827/2013-unreported).

Ms Begum’s household included a disabled son, who suffered from behavioural impairment, focal onset epilepsy and suicidal tendencies, which were liable (according to the medical evidence) to be triggered when travelling by car. Ms Begum was in receipt of DLA for her son and a social services support package was in place. Following a period spent in B&B accommodation, the family was offered accommodation in Liverpool on 1/5/13. Newham argued that it was not reasonably practical to offer affordable in-borough accommodation in light of the anticipated benefit cap. The offer was nevertheless refused and the Claimant argued that the Authority had not taken proper account of the s.149 Equality Act duty, Art. 2 of the 2012 Suitability of Accommodation Order and her Article 8 and Article 14 Convention Rights. Nor had Newham enquired properly, it was argued, into whether there was suitable accommodation closer to London.

On the application for interim relief, Cox J ordered on 15/5/2013 that the Authority provide suitable accommodation for the household pending completion of the review. As well as criticising the Council’s failure to respond fully to the Claimant’s pre-action correspondence, the Judge commented that it would be appropriate to order interim relief on the basis of the son’s medical and behavioural disabilities.

It is understood that Newham have taken no steps to discharge the Order and that the family remains in B&B accommodation.

Clearly, this is not the end of the story and the case will have to go through the reviews and (possibly) the appeals process. However, the case is a useful indicator of the factual and legal issues which will come into play when (and probably not only if) out-of-area placements are challenged in future.

 

 

 

 

 

About SJM

SJM is partner and head of the housing and public law department at Miles and Partners LLP, based in London E1.
Posted in Homeless, Housing law - All and tagged , .

5 Comments

  1. One non-factual issue is the numbers affected by the benefit cap which have a context here. (a) The DWP say 56,000 yet (b) have sent out 89,000 letters to those it estimates are affected; yet (c) I spoke with 4 councils last week on this and all 4 had a variances of over 20% to these figures – 3 were 20% more and 1 was 20% less.

    Both the 56k and 89k figure have 47% of those affected (26.350 to 41,755) resident in London. So the London figure of 11,513 for all cases will almost certainly double if not quadruple given the average weekly benefit cut from the cap is still £93 pw and likely to be higher in the capital and almost guarantees eviction and homelessness.

    If the national PRS/SRS split is the same in London then its 54% PRS tenants and 46% SRS tenants and so it looks likely that just the PRS tenants evicted at 54% of the lower 26,350 figure makes over 14,000 PRS evictions in London alone and this will more than double the overall number of 11,513 last year. Hence this case if and when it progresses is likely to be of huge significance given the numbers involved.

  2. My understanding is that the benefit cap doesn’t apply to households where someone was in receipt of DLA – in which case, what is the council on about? Are they just trying to shunt everyone up to Liverpool regardless of the facts?

  3. Hello, JM. Reading between the lines, I surmise that Ms Begum might have a large family (four-bedroomed need or greater), with either no adults working, or adults in low-income work.

    If so, perhaps the council adjudges, in light of its duty to ensure that temporary accommodation is affordable, that in London, four-bedroomed and larger-sized rented accommodation is probably unaffordable for the majority of people who rely on Housing Benefit to pay their rent.

    • I don;t know about the Begum’s circumstances, but that is certainly the line that Newham are taking. No affordable property reasonably obtainable in borough.

  4. Pingback: Bedroom tax and the ‘tenant power bloc’ forming – landlords and IDS beware!

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