Appeal against Southwark’s decision that woman with auto-immune disorder and depression was not a ‘vulnerable’ homeless person in priority need

Tuesday 1 August 2017

Liz Davies successfully represented a woman found by Southwark not to be “vulnerable” and not to have a priority need for homelessness assistance.

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Recorder Jones QC allowed the appeal in T v Southwark  London Borough Council in a judgment handed down 19 July 2017, Central London County Court.

T had ankylosing spondylitis, an auto-immune disorder causing symptoms of pain and stiffness in the lower spine and pelvis. It had led to arthritis, causing additional stiffness and pain. She had not taken medication but had attempted to manage her conditions by exercise, yoga and painkillers. She also suffered from depression.

A GP’s report had said that homelessness would have a devastating effect on her, and that specifically she might not be able to manage her physical conditions, which could lead to increased pain and potentially the risk of spinal fusion (which would be irreversible).

Southwark had decided that T was able to look after herself, had been able to challenge the system and would not suffer significantly more harm than the ordinary person if rendered homeless.

Recorder Jones QC allowed the appeal on one ground, and quashed the decision. She found that there appeared to have been a failure to grapple directly with the very clear evidence from the GP. She rejected the submission that Southwark should have defined “significantly” in the context of whether T was “significantly” more vulnerable than the ordinary person if rendered homeless.

Liz Davies represented the appellant, instructed by Gurminder Birdi of Cambridge House Law Centre. Liz Davies is a member of the Garden Court Chambers Housing Team.

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