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'A Place to Call Home' report used in court proceedings!

8/2/2016

Report Front CoverWe are delighted to report that the 'A Place to Call Home' report that we published in December, in partnership with the Hackney Migrant Centre, has already been used to assist judicial review proceedings in court!

 

Just before Christmas, Birmingham Community Law Centre (BCLC) HCLC's sister law centre in Birmingham (and colleagues at the Asylum Support and Immigration Resource Team) were granted permission to bring a judicial review against Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council (MBC), to challenge the suitability of the accommodation and financial support that the council have been providing to families subject to 'no recourse to public funds' under section 17 of the Children Act 1989. T

 

he case, called Williams & ors v Sandwell MBC, was brought on behalf of two of BCLC's client families. The two families involved have been receiving support from Sandwell MBC Social Services because their immigration status means that they have no recourse to public funds and because they are also not permitted to receive mainstream welfare benefits or housing.

 

Though grateful to be supported by the council, the families were however distressed to have been left in the so-called temporary hotels for over two years - three years in one case - in direct contravention of UK homelessness legislation, which states that when a homeless family reports to a local authority, the local authority should not place the family in a hotel unless it is an emergency - and certainly for no longer than six weeks.

 

At the December 2015 court hearing to seek permission to proceed with the judicial review, BCLC argued that Sandwell MBC's decision to place children and their families in hotels for years on end was unlawful. BCLC specifically challenged the suitability of Sandwell MBC’s provision of B&B accommodation, the level of financial support awarded to the families, and the absence of a published policy on how the local authority deals with assessing children whose families have no recourse to public funds.

 

His Honour Judge Barker QC granted BCLC permission to proceed with the judicial review on all three grounds.

 

Commenting on how HCLC's 'A Place to Call Home' report came to be used in Williams & ors v Sandwell MBC, BCLC's Manager Michael Bates said: “In the course of the litigation, we were able to introduce and rely on the report of Hackney Law Centre and Hackney Migrants Centre – A Place to Call Home. The report adds colour and detail to the issue of children in need who are supported by local authorities and clearly chimes with the issues faced by our clients.  We hope that Williams & ors v Sandwell MBC case will bring some much needed clarity to the issue of whether local authorities should have a published policy on the provision of Children Act services to families with no recourse to public funds and force councils to focus on the quality and suitability of accommodation provided to children in need.”

 

HCLC Chair Ian Rathbone said: "The use of HCLC's 'A Place to Call Home' report in the  Williams & ors v Sandwell MBC case demonstrates the importance of evidence collection and research in what is the complicated field of housing and homelessness. Unfortunately funding for such work is not easily found when it should be a priority to inform local authorities, and the courts if necessary, of what is really happening on the ground and how it can be tackled. I appeal to those who make such decisions, decide on policy or in any way comment on such matters, to continue to seek the truth of the hidden suffering that is going in our society and ensure that is fully and adequately documented.

 

We decided to commission the research to highlight the severe housing difficulties faced by thousands of destitute migrant families who are simply not on the radar of political decision-makers, policy-makers or journalists. I echo the important comment by Michael Bates of Birmingham Community Law Centre that this case underlines the need for local authorities to have a published policy on the provision of Children Act services to families with no recourse to public funds. And we would hope encourage local councils to focus on the quality and suitability of accommodation provided to all children in need."

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