Accommodation, care needs and the Localism Act

30 Oct 2019

Health and Social Care, Housing, Local Government, Public Law and Judicial Review

When can a failed asylum seeker ask the local authority to provide him with accommodation? The answer, according to Michael Fordham QC in R(Aburas) v LB of Southwark [2019] EWHC 2754 (Admin), is that he cannot, even if he has mental health problems.

Mr Aburas is a failed asylum-seeker and cannot return to his country of origin as he is currently claiming to be stateless. Whilst the Secretary of State deals with that application, where does he turn for accommodation? He was previously granted accommodation by the Secretary of State but was also placed in immigration detention and is in breach of his bail conditions; he also has bi-polar disorder and depression and has been in hospital. He needs medication on an ongoing basis.

He approached the local authority for assistance and was assessed as not having care needs that met the criteria in the Care Act 2014. He was refused permission to challenge this assessment by way of judicial review but permission was granted for him to challenge the way that Southwark dealt with the human rights issues raised by his case. He argued that he needed accommodation, so that he could be supported by a social worker to take medication and get proper nutrition. The local authority disagreed with that as a statement of fact in any event, but argued that any assessment of the human rights issues had to start with the statutory scheme, in this case the Care Act 2014.

Mr Fordham QC agreed that the Claimant’s needs for accommodation and subsistence should be met by the Secretary of State, not by the local authority. The evidence did not establish that without accommodation, the Claimant would not take his medication or proper food.

He rejected the Claimant’s claim that the local authority should have considered whether to exercise its power under section 1 of the Localism Act 2011 to accommodate the Claimant in order to avoid a breach of his human rights. Section 1 does not enable the local authority to meet a need for accommodation alone. Southwark had not erred in not carrying out a separate human rights assessment.

Catherine Rowlands appeared for the local authority.