A landmark decision for homeless people was handed-down by the Court of Appeal earlier today with considerable implications for all those living in unacceptable housing throughout the country. In Birmingham CC v Aweys and others the Court considered the cases of six families who were "homeless" because their homes were in such poor condition or so overcrowded that they were no longer reasonable to occupy. The Council accepted that it owed them the same legal duties that would be owed to the 'street homeless' but instead of immediately providing suitable alternative housing it told them to wait in their existing grossly unsatisfactory homes until their turns came up on the Council's waiting list. On that list they were put in the queue behind the homeless people who the Council was already accommodating in suitable housing. The Court declared that the Council had been acting unlawfully in leaving the families in their current homes and that the Council's priorities on its waiting list were irrational. Jan Luba QC appeared as leading counsel for the families.
The good news of this judgement comes at a time when civil legal aid and especially social welfare law services are stretched to the limit and when many of the most experienced and dedicated experts are in flight from a system driven by commoditisation and falling standards. Commenting after the case, Jan Luba QC noted that "without good housing solicitors and legal aid, these clents would have had no chance against the largest housing authority in England".
Garden Court Chambers, staunch defender of legal aid services for the most vulnerable in society, remains vigorously opposed to the Legal Services Commission's new arrangements for publicly aided work, which discourage suppliers from taking on complex and more difficult work in favour of cases that are easier to win and more profitable. See the link below for the full judgement.