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.