Allocations Part 2: the welfare of the child

Tuesday 30 August 2016

R (Woolfe) v Islington London Borough Council [2016] EWHC 1907 (Admin), 15 July 2016. Ms Woolfe lived with her baby daughter in a studio provided by Islington, as a homeless person. Shortly after applying to Islington as homeless, Ms Woolfe also applied for an allocation of social housing.

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R (Woolfe) v Islington London Borough Council [2016] EWHC 1907 (Admin), 15 July 2016

The claimant, Ms Woolfe, was 22 years old. She lived with her baby daughter in a studio flat provided to her by the defendant, Islington LBC, as a homeless person. Shortly after applying to Islington as homeless, Ms Woolfe also applied for an allocation of social housing.

Islington operated a points based allocation scheme providing, among other things, that applicants with less than 120 points would not be able to bid for properties. The scheme also provided that additional points should be awarded to the sons and daughters of certain residents of Islington who had lived in the area for at least three of the last five years. This was known as the ‘New Generation’ policy.

Ms Woolfe was awarded 110 points overall, with no points awarded under the New Generation policy, with the effect that she was not able to bid.

Ms Woolfe sought judicial review of the allocation scheme arguing that the points threshold was unlawful in that it precluded a proportion of applicants who fell within the ‘reasonable preference’ categories set out in s166A(3) Housing Act 1996 from bidding and that it was in breach of s11 Children Act 2004. It was also argued that Islington had wrongly failed to provide her with additional points under the New Generation policy.

Holman J allowed the claim on the third of these grounds only.

The challenge to the legality of the scheme based on s166A Housing Act 1996 failed as Ms Woolfe was not prevented from registering on the scheme entirely; rather she was registered on the scheme but was prevented from bidding until she accrued a certain number of points. The recent run of successful challenges to allocation schemes (R (Jakimaviciute) v Hammersmith & Fulham LBC [2014] EWCA Civ 1438, Alemi v Westminster CC [2015] EWHC 1765 (Admin), and R (HA) v Ealing LBC [2015] EWHC 2375) were distinguished on that basis. Ms Woolfe had been afforded some limited preference (10 points) reflecting the fact that she was homeless, and whether that preference was ‘reasonable’ was a matter for Islington with which the judge was not prepared to interfere.

The s11 Children Act 2004 challenge failed as Islington, the judge held, had had due regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of Ms Woolfe’s child. Consideration had been given to Ms Woolfe’s child both at the time of providing the accommodation in which the pair were accommodated and at the time of considering the points the household should be awarded under the scheme on welfare grounds.

However, the challenge based on the application of the New Generation policy succeeded. Islington had misconstrued and misapplied the relevant part of the policy which, on a true construction, allowed for additional points to be awarded to applicants who had lived in the area with their parents continuously for three of the last five years, in the private or social sector, even if they were not still living together.

Islington’s decision was quashed and the matter remitted for further consideration in light of this error.

Click here for the judgment.

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