High Court orders Council to accommodate street homeless 6 month old British baby and his mother during the Coronavirus lockdown

MG&Co represented a vulnerable and homeless 6 month old baby and his mother in an urgent judicial review challenge to a local authority’s refusal to provide support  pending completion of an assessment of the child’s needs under section 17 of the Children Act 1989.

The family are not entitled to claim mainstream welfare benefits and housing support due to the mother’s particular immigration status, despite the child being British and the mother lawfully resident in the UK. As a consequence, and like so many other families with No Recourse to Public Funds, the family had been sofa surfing and struggling to survive on small, ad hoc cash gifts and baby items from various friends and church members.

In March this help ran out and our clients were left destitute.

Our clients turned to the Council for help. An assessment was started but the Council refused to provide accommodation or financial support pending it’s conclusion on the basis that “sufficient information” of exactly where the family had been staying had not been provided.

As a result, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and government ordered lockdown, our clients were left street homeless. They were forced to spend hours wandering around on the high street, in the park and sitting at the police station as they had no place to go. Fortunately a charity, Project 17 intervened and were able to pay for a hotel for a few nights.

On 25 March MG&C issued Judicial Review proceedings  challenging the Council’s refusal to provide accommodation and financial support whilst carrying out an assessment. We sought an urgent Interim Relief order that accommodation and support be provided immediately to the family.

An Order granting Interim Relief was made by the High Court that evening requiring the Council to accommodate and provide financial subsistence immediately whilst the Council assesses.

Olivia Halse, solicitor for the family says:

“We are very pleased this family now have a place to stay and financial support during the Coronavirus crisis and whilst the assessment is being completed. It is a shame, however, that we were required to take this issue to Court. No child should be left out on the street in any circumstances, but especially during an international pandemic when everyone is being asked to stay at home.

Local authorities have the power to provide children with services before an assessment is complete. When a child presents as street homeless this clearly raises an urgent need to provide support.

It is unacceptable that the Council be focused solely on the support history of the family when making a decision in relation to providing urgent support, instead of looking at the immediate risk of the child being street homeless and considering whether they have a place to stay on the night in question. Unfortunately this is a growing trend among local authorities.” 

Olivia Halse of MG&Co and counsel Khatija Hafesji of Monckton Chambers act for the Claimant.