London Borough of Newham (on the application of H) (22 October 2001) (unreported) (QBD)

The courts will not allow local authorities to defer assessments indefinitely.

H, a seven-year-old autistic child, lived with his mother and younger sister, against whom he was violent. His mother was facing eviction from her private sector tenancy and the evidence was clear that wherever she was re-housed there would be an increase in the needs of H, for whom she was already finding it difficult to care. She requested assessments under the Children Act 1989 (for respite care, a sitter, assistance in the home) and of her ability to care under the Carers and Disabled Children Act 2000.

Although the council agreed that it had to carry out assessments and that it would house H and his family in suitable accommodation pending an offer of permanent accommodation, it sought to argue that it had a discretion as to when these social care assessments would be carried out. The council wanted to defer the assessments until an offer of permanent accommodation was made, although it could not say when this would be.

Finding against the council, the judge held that where there were possible needs to be met and where there was no timescale for providing the permanent accommodation, the assessments should be carried out within 35 working days as set out in the Department of Health’s “Framework for Assessment of Children and their Families” document.

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