Saint Sepulchre, R (On the Application Of) v Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea (2023) EWHC 2913 (Admin)
A judicial review of RBKC’s refusal to provide temporary accommodation pending section 202 review of the decision that Mr S was not homeless.
Mr S had applied to RBKC as homeless in December 2022. The background was as follows:
Mr. Saint Sepulchre is a 51-year-old single man with serious physical and mental health conditions. He is a wheelchair user and suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. Since 18 January 2016, the Claimant has had a social housing tenancy of a property in Truro (“the Truro address”), although, from 2018, he made housing applications on at least two occasions to the Defendant on a similar basis as this application, namely the fear of and assaults by his neighbours.
In his witness statement dated 2 June 2023, the Claimant describes a number of incidents in Truro involving assaults upon him by his neighbours, over four years, including a neighbour drilling through his door whilst he was inside and being pulled out of his wheelchair outside (September 2018). The Claimant describes going to London after this incident and making his first homelessness application, which was rejected. He returned to Cornwall.
The Claimant states that the last time he was told to return to Cornwall he ended up sleeping in a tent despite being reassured that there was temporary accommodation. Cornwall Housing reported to the Defendant that, in April 2022, the Claimant was housed in a “homeless pod”, after he had pitched a tent, due to the Truro address not being habitable.
The two recent specific allegations concerning the Truro address relate to the summer and Halloween of 2022. Mr. Saint Sepulchre says that he was assaulted three times by a neighbour in the summer of 2022 and pushed out of his wheelchair. In his statement, Mr. Saint Sepulchre states that on Halloween 2022 at about 3 am, he heard noises outside. He opened the door and then was attacked. He named the alleged attacker. After this incident, Mr. Saint Sepulchre again returned to London. It appears that he slept in Kensington High Street car park. He approached the Defendant for housing on 6 December 2022.
Mr. Saint Sepulchre also alleged police corruption and criminality in Truro which meant that he was “terrified” to go past the police station. He further described distrust of the local authority in Cornwall. He says that they had broken an agreement with him to clear his arrears and instead attempted to evict him.
RBKC had found that Mr S was not homeless in a s.184 decision in May 2023, holding that he had accommodation in which it was reasonable to remain in Turo.
In the meantime, in March 2023, RBKC social services had assessed Mr S in his hotel room
The conclusion of the report was that Mr. Saint Sepulchre has eligible needs in line with the Care Act 2014 as a result of both mental health and physical health conditions and that there was a risk of deteriorating mental and physical health if he is not linked with local services. A need for longer term professional support was identified for both physical and mental health. The Claimant was allocated a social worker to set up a support plan. The Claimant also was referred to Ealing Mental Health Service.
On 8 December 2022 Cornwall Council had carried out a Care Act assessment and concluded that Mr. Saint-Sepulchre did not have any eligible social care needs. However, it appears that he was offered support in the form of a social worker but did not allow access to the Truro address and then did not engage beyond the informal doorstep assessment.
RBKC’s decision letter apparently dd not address the RBKC care assessment. Nor did the ‘review’ decision on provision of TA pending s.202 review. These stated variously
a. “It is asserted that Mr. Saint Sepulchre has been attacked by his neighbours and that the property is unsafe for him to return to. Relevant enquiries were made to the landlord who advised that there were no reports or concerns raised in relation to Mr. Saint Sepulchre’s safety that would lead them to believe that he was unable to reside (at the address)” (the Decision).
b. “I have also considered that Mr. Saint Sepulchre has previously approached this Authority in 2020, when he also claimed he could not return to his home in Cornwall due to safety issues, which were not confirmed.” (the Decision).
c. In deciding whether the original decision was finely balanced, “in the absence of any compelling evidence that would support your decision that our decision was flawed, I am satisfied that the evidence clearly supported our decision.” (the Decision).
d. Careful consideration was given to Mr. Saint Sepulchre’s physical and mental health issues. Having support needs and being linked to a local social worker could not “be considered an exceptional circumstance” and this support can be provided in Cornwall. (the Decision)
e. There is no disagreement that Mr. Saint Sepulchre is a vulnerable person. (the Review Letter).
f. Scarcity of housing and cost of temporary housing and need to consider responsibility to other homeless households is considered (the Decision and the Review Letter).
Mr S grounds of judicial review were
(i) inadequate inquiries
(iii) failure to consider new information and all the circumstances of the case
(iv) breach of the Public Sector Equality duty.
The High Court held:
On i) RBKC had not referred its initial findings to Mr S’ solicitors for response. This was an obvious step doe to Mr S’ vulnerability. RBKC had failed to take into consideration Mr S’ difficulty in communicating with others, despite his solicitors having raised this , instead just saying he had not responded to a telephone call or a note under his door. RBKC had taken the lack of police reports of violence against Mr S without considering whether and why he might be fearful approaching the police. RBKC had taken the Truro landlord’s statement that it had had no reports without asking for anything further in response from Mr S.
The Defendant points to the Housing Officer considering Mr. Saint Sepulchre’s solicitors’ response in its Review Letter. However, the Review Letter focuses on lack of engagement by Mr. Saint Sepulchre and also its view of the unlikelihood of the housing office never having been notified by the applicant or neighbours of attacks. There appears to be no contemplation that Mr. Saint Sepulchre might be equally terrified of violence that he believed to have happened.
RBKC also asserted that all care needs could be provided in Cornwall.
However, the reasons given that all support can be provided in Cornwall does not take into account the apparent deterioration of the Claimant’s condition since his Care Act assessment in Cornwall where no eligible care needs were identified.
The review letter also expressed doubts that Mr S was as reliant on a wheelchair as was asserted. No enquiries had been made in this regard of RBKC’s occupational therapist’s assessment, and the assertion appeared to be without evidence.
In my view, there are deficiencies of inquiries which can be summarised into the following areas: (i) the safety of the address beyond communication with the landlord in Cornwall, (ii) combined with the lack of consideration of the complaints of assault from the perspective of Mr. Saint Sepulchre, with his particular mental illness (at minimum, he believed they happened); (iii) the Defendant’s Care Act assessment in the Decision and lack of consideration of its findings in the Review Letter; (iv) personal circumstances and consequences of not providing accommodation, there is a lack of inquiry of the Care Act assessment assessor and of Mr. Saint Sepulchre’s social worker as to the effect of not providing accommodation in light of his hospital admissions in June 2023; there is some challenge in the Review Letter to the wheelchair dependency without further inquiries of Ms. Fleming (v) the basis for the assertion in the both the Decision and Review Letter that Mr. Saint Sepulchre will receive the same care in Cornwall
The Defendant does not seek assistance from Mr. Saint Sepulchre’s solicitors to gain his view of the information from the social housing landlord in Truro and reasons for lack of police reports. This lack of inquiry means that the merits of the Claimant’s case are strong as the reliance on the Truro information has not been balanced. If it was balanced, the judgement itself is a fine balance. The complexities of Mr. Saint Sepulchre’s mental and physical conditions are not reflected as having been considered, beyond their description, in the approach to the inquiries. Where there is analysis, there appears to be some questioning of the Claimant’s dependence on a wheelchair; a questioning that is not supported by medical evidence or further inquiry. The Defendant argues that the Claimant was given an opportunity to explain inconsistencies. However, telephoning him and having a note pushed under his door may well have been difficult for Mr. Saint Sepulchre to cope with due to his mental health struggles. The PSED engagement is recognised in the Decision and the Review Letter, but it is not obviously applied through the inquiry process.
As such, RBKC had failed to meet the R v Camden LBC ex parte Mohammed (1998) 30 HLR 315 (Admin) criteria, or the statutory code of guidance at para 15.26.
The other grounds did not need to be considered.
RBKC ordered to provide accommodation pending review.