12 July, 2018
In our recent blog "S20 and the Duty to Accommodate…When is enough, enough?" we looked at the case of R v Haringey which considers the extent of the duty owed by Local Authorities to accommodate teenagers in accordance with s20 Children Act 1989. The Court concluded that it is not necessarily unlawful for a Local Authority to make the decision not to provide a young person with further accommodation and support, should the young person continually and unequivocally refuse such suitable placements.
Another case has emerged which further considers the extent of a local authority's duty to accommodate teenagers. In this case, a mother and her teenage daughter had been placed in a neighbouring borough when they made a homelessness application to the London Borough of Islington. The Council subsequently determined that the mother was intentionally homeless and advised the family to access children's services at the neighbouring borough.
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman carried out an investigation and found Islington at fault for failing to provide services to the teenager when she was at risk of homelessness. The Council should have carried out an assessment to find out what duty it owed her. They concluded that if Islington believed the neighbouring council was responsible for the teenager under the Children Act 1989, they should have worked together to resolve the dispute. The Ombudsman commented "The teenager should not be disadvantaged by any disagreements and the Council should provide any necessary services until the disputes are settled."
Although the local authority had deemed that the mother was intentionally homeless, under the Children Act they should have separated the teenager's need for accommodation from the Mother's need, and offered the teenager the services she required until the financial arrangements as between the authorities had been resolved. Regrettably, at the time of reporting the case, the teenager had gone missing. In her absence, the Council have awarded her £400 in compensation for the distress caused.