Earlier this year, MLRC successfully assisted a family in securing suitable emergency accommodation after they spent almost a year in one night only emergency accommodation with young children. MLRC also assisted the family in accessing the social housing list.
The family had been living in one night only emergency accommodation with their five young children since February 2019. When our client gave birth to her sixth child in October last year, she was discharged back into this emergency accommodation with her new-born against the advice of senior medical staff. Due to the nature of the accommodation, the family were required to spend large parts of their day on the streets, with the local park described by the family as a “changing room” for their new-born. The family also had a lack of facilities to be able to care for their other children when they returned from school. At that stage, the case was referred to MLRC and we met with the family at one of our outreach clinics.
There were two distinct issues affecting the family. The first was the provision of suitable emergency accommodation. MLRC raised this issue with the local authority highlighting the total unsuitability of the family’s one night only accommodation. It was argued that the local authority’s failure to provide adequate accommodation breached the family’s constitutional rights under Article 42A. It was also argued that self-accommodation, which requires the family to source their own emergency accommodation in a hotel or B&B which is then paid for by the local authority, was unacceptable in these circumstances in light of the size of the family, the new-born baby, and the fact that they did not speak English. MLRC made numerous attempts to engage with the local authority which were unsuccessful and judicial review proceedings were initiated. A settlement meeting was held following the issuing of legal proceedings and the family were offered more suitable emergency accommodation which they had 24-hour access to. This outcome was welcomed by the family and the legal proceedings settled.
In tandem, the family was refused access to the local authority’s social housing list on the basis that they did not have a local connection to the local authority’s functional area. MLRC challenged this, arguing that the father of the family worked as a contract worker consistently within the functional area of the local authority and payslips were provided in support of this. In our submissions, we argued that the local authority’s decision amounted to an error of law and fact, and a breach of the family’s right to fair procedures.
It was further argued that even if there was no local connection, the local authority could exercise its discretion to conduct a social housing assessment under Article 5(c), Social Housing Regulations 2011 given the difficult conditions in which the family was living at the time.
Following these representations from MLRC, the local authority reversed its earlier refusals and determined that the family did meet the local connection test. The family were deemed eligible for the local authority’s social housing list with their time on the list backdated to October 2019. This was a long and difficult journey for the family who are delighted and relieved with this outcome.