Disabled woman won housing under human rights

Ma at goddess of justice
Ma’at, Egyptian goddess of justice, from whom the scales of justice originated

We want to publicise the precedent legal case of a homeless disabled woman we helped, who won the right to housing in 2016, as we’ve heard of women in similar situations where the Council is refusing to provide accommodation.  During the time we supported her, she was often suicidal, but won in the end. (Note: the case was won on her personal circumstances, each situation is different, so anyone wishing to rely on this will need to get experienced legal advice.)

This concerned the Care Act 2014 and the extent to which those who did not have accommodation or the means to pay for it could expect to be assisted with their accommodation needs by a local authority under the Care Act.

She is a wheelchair user with mental health problems, a refugee with European nationality.  In 2013, she arrived at Heathrow Airport.  She lived there until she was banned from the airport.  She moved around different boroughs.  She was sectioned and then discharged from hospital.  She was poorly advised by help agencies, and cruelly turned away by officials – if she had been properly helped earlier, she would have been able to get Housing Benefit before the rules changed.  As an unemployed jobseeker (not allowed to claim ESA), she was barred from getting Housing Benefit under the benefit restrictions in force from 2014.

She contacted the Crossroads Women’s Centre, then WinVisible.  We had experience that under community care law, vulnerable people, disabled people, mothers and children, could get Council support where they couldn’t get benefits because of their immigration status.  We referred her to Camden Adult Social Care and worked with a solicitor colleague at the firm Simpson Millar (previously Maxwell Gillott) who took on her case.

When she was assessed by social workers, she said she could manage to live independently, although this was not realistic.  But the Council relied on this to say they had no obligation under the Care Act.  They assessed her in temporary accommodation, which put her in a better situation than homeless, so it was not a proper test of her true needs.

She was successful in her application for judicial review and was found to be eligible for support from the local authority in order to avoid a breach of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”  The judge ruled that Camden should have used its discretion under the Localism Act to provide her with accommodation in order to avoid a breach of her human rights.

Our side quoted the House of Lords 2005 successful case of Limbuela and others, young men asylum seekers sleeping rough and denied all support.  In that case, Baroness Hale said: It might be possible to endure rooflessness for some time without degradation if one had enough to eat and somewhere to wash oneself and one’s clothing. It might be possible to endure cashlessness for some time if one had a roof and basic meals and hygiene facilities provided. But to have to endure the indefinite prospect of both, unless one is in a place where it is both possible and legal to live off the land, is in today’s society both inhuman and degrading.” (Paragraph 78)  She added that for a woman, it’s even clearer that her human rights are breached if she is left homeless and vulnerable to attack.

A barrister explains more on how immigration law restricts Care Act provision: https://www.gardencourtchambers.co.uk/socialwelfare/the-interplay-of-the-care-act-2014-and-the-localism-act-2010-in-the-case-of-gs/

The full judgement is here: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2016/1762.html

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