Council fails to consider best interests of homeless children

Thursday 17 December 2015

A homeless family has succeeded in a suitability appeal due to Tower Hamlets’ failure to consider the best interests of the children. The client was represented by Maria Moodie and Marina Sergides.

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The client is a single mother with four children who fled domestic violence. She was initially accommodated in a women’s refuge in Tower Hamlets and then applied as homeless.

The children are all settled in primary school and nursery in Tower Hamlets where they receive additional support in school. One child has special educational needs and is in receipt of Disability Living Allowance.

Tower Hamlets accepted that they owed the family the main homelessness duty and placed them in temporary accommodation out of borough. The location of the temporary accommodation meant that the family had a daily commute of five hours to school and back each day, which was causing considerable disruption to the children’s education and wellbeing.

Tower Hamlets’ review decision maintained that the temporary accommodation was suitable and, in terms of the daily commute, concluded that the children must simply bear the consequences of their mother’s decision to continue their education in-borough.

On appeal, the judge held that the decision of Tower Hamlets was unlawful for want of properly consideration of the needs and wellbeing of the children and in particular the disruption that would be caused to their education by being forced to change schools. Despite Tower Hamlets making its review decision after judgment was delivered in the case of Nzolameso v City of Westminster [2015] UKSC 22, there was an alarming failure to apply the judgment of Lady Hale pertaining to best interests of the children in out-of-borough homelessness cases.

Tower Hamlets have since conceded that the temporary accommodation is unsuitable and are currently making arrangements to accommodate the family in-borough closer to the children’s school.

Maria Moodie, who represented the client in her appeal, and Marina Serdiges, who drafted the appeal grounds, are members of Garden Court’s Housing Team. Both were instructed by John Gorringe of TV Edwards Solicitors.


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