THE LONDON BOROUGH OF SOUTHWARK ORDERED TO STOP ‘GATEKEEPING’ VULNERABLE HOMELESS FAMILIES

20.02.15 | |

Southwark Council has been ordered to stop breaking the law by turning away homeless people who apply for housing in the borough.

 

A High Court order in judicial review proceedings requires the London local authority "to cease with immediate effect the policies and practices" which had led to a homeless family being told  to look for accommodation in the private market before the council would investigate whether they were homeless. These unlawful practices had meant that the number of people seeking homeless assistance from the Council had been kept artificially low.

 

The family's solicitor, Lara ten Caten of Hansen Palomares, said

 

"For years we have been concerned about the way Southwark has been turning away homeless people in clear breach of the law. The victims have included refugees, a young person leaving care who was also a victim of domestic violence, a blind woman and many, many more. Some were refused temporary accommodation. When challenged, Southwark have always claimed that it was a mistake or some rogue officer who had misunderstood council policy."

 

However, this time Southwark's legal department responded in writing that it was the council's policy to  send applicants to the private sector before it would investigate whether they were homeless  But, in a judicial review it was argued that this was against the law. Under the Housing Act 1996 local authorities must investigate applications from anyone “it has reason to believe may be homeless or threatened with homelessness” and provide temporary accommodation to those with children or who appear vulnerable. After at first trying to contest the proceedings, Southwark has now submitted to the High Court order that it must abandon its unlawful practices, scrap its misleading public information leaflets, inform homeless applicants of their rights and stop turning them away.  This is great news for homeless people in Southwark.

 

Counsel for the homeless applicants was Jamie Burton.

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