5 September 2018, by Connor Johnston
Ms Lomax, the Appellant, suffered from a number of physical and mental problems, as a result of which she was wheelchair bound and required 24-hour care. The care had been provided by her ex-partner, but he had decided to move on. The area in which she lived in rural Dorset was very isolated with no public transport and no voluntary transport which had wheelchair access.
Ms Lomax’s family, who were able and willing to support her, lived 70 miles away in Gosport. In these circumstances Ms Lomax sought homelessness assistance from the Respondent, Gosport BC, on the basis that although she had accommodation it was not reasonable for her to continue to occupy within the meaning of ss175 and 177 Housing Act 1996.
Gosport accepted her application but determined that she was not homeless. That decision was upheld on review and on appeal. The Court of Appeal allowed a second appeal. What had ‘tipped the balance’ for the reviewing officer was the comparison (permitted by s177(2) Housing Act 1996) of Ms Lomax’s circumstances with the prevailing circumstances in Gosport where, it was said, the vast majority of those on the council’s housing register ‘live in accommodation that is not ideal for them’. In making this comparison, and in treating Ms Lomax as being in ‘the same unfortunate boat’ as the other households on the housing register, Gosport had failed to discharge the requirements of the public sector equality duty which, in this context, required:
i) A sharp focus on whether Ms Lomax was disabled.
ii) A sharp focus on the extent of her disabilities.
iii) A sharp focus on the likely effect of the disabilities, when taken together with any other features, on Ms Lomax for as long as she continued to occupy the property.
iv) A sharp focus on Ms Lomax’ particular needs in relation to accommodation which arise from her disabilities and the extent to which her current accommodation meets those needs.
v) A comparison between Ms Lomax’ accommodation needs and the accommodation needs of people without her particular disabilities.
vi) A recognition that when considering whether it was reasonable for her to continue to occupy her property Ms Lomax might need to be treated more favourably than others without her disabilities.
The full judgment is available here: Lomax v Gosport BC  EWCA Civ 1846, 01 August 2018