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Suitability appeal – don’t ignore evidence of need.


Our grateful thanks to Daniel Grütters of One Pump Court for the following note and copy of the judgment in a section 204 appeal on the suitability of temporary accommodation.

Uddin v Hackney LBC (2023) J40CL175 (unreported, we’ve seen the judgment.)

Case Summary

The Appellant approached the Respondent for homelessness assistance in August 2016, after he, his wife and four children had been asked to leave their home. In due course, the Respondent accepted the ‘main housing’ duty towards them. However, the accommodation it secured for them was not suitable and the family was moved multiple times.

The Appellant’s two youngest children are autistic, non-verbal communicators, with sensory processing difficulties and associated learning difficulties. This affected the family’s housing needs. In June 2019, the family was moved to a house on Millfields Road. The Respondent conducted a suitability assessment of that property in relation to the family’s health needs. Dr Farrell (from NowMedical) concluded that the property was “not ideal on medical grounds” and that it was “considered suitable in the very short term only”. In re-housing the family, she recommended “each child affected by autism to have their own room”.

This was a continuation of a long trend of medical professionals finding the need for each of the youngest boys to have their own bedroom, effectively due to their autism. This trend also continued in the years which followed. In May 2022, the Appellant requested a suitability review of the house on Millfields Road. In support, the family provided up-to-date reports and letters from the boys’ occupational therapists as well as care package reviews for both boys from the Respondent’s Disabled Children Services. Similar to the older medical evidence, those documents all noted the need for the boys to have their own bedrooms, due to their autism.

However, the review decision concluded that the property was suitable, mostly by relying on two medical reports from the Respondent’s own occupational therapist. The subsequent appeal against that decision was allowed by HHJ Monty KC on three of the four grounds of appeal.

The first ground was that the review decision failed to properly take into account the need for separate bedrooms, “emphasised in report after report over the years”, which was an error of law. The Judge held that it was irrational for the revieing officer to have preferred the assessment from its own occupational therapist over the overwhelming history showing a need for two bedrooms.

The second ground contended that, on the basis of the report from the Respondent’s own occupational therapist, the review officer should have made further inquiries. The report had called for the need for an updated educational health care plan to be provided but had incorrectly placed that burden on the Appellant, whereas there was a statutory duty on the Respondent to maintain and review such a plan. The failure to conduct any inquiries with its own department amounted to an error of law.

The third ground of appeal was that the Respondent had failed to have due regard to both the public sector equality duty and the need to safeguard and promote the Appellant’s children’s welfare. The review decision failed to have regard to the need to remove or minimise the disadvantages suffered by Shafi and Nizam that are connected to their autism nor to take steps to meet their needs that are different from those who do not suffer from autism. For example, the room and space (overcrowding) standard referred to in the review decision should not have been applied to children with autism, particularly when set against the medical evidence. The conclusion that the property “does not/will not jeopardise the safety and welfare of [the] children” was perverse in the light of the occupational therapist’s assessments from January 2022. There had also not been any consideration of how the behaviour and needs of Shafi and Nizam impacted on the two other children.

The fourth ground, that the review decision was Wednesbury unreasonable did not succeed.

Daniel Grütters (One Pump Court) appeared on behalf of the Appellant and was instructed by Richard Harmer from Shelter Legal Services.

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.


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