Westminster City Council, ex p A; Hammersmith and Fulham LBC, ex p M; Lambeth LBC, ex p P and X [1998] LGR 277 (CA)

Section 21 National Assistance Act 1948 – asylum seekers

Destitute asylum-seekers unable to provide for themselves or otherwise obtain the basic necessities of life, such as food, shelter and warmth, were persons in need of ‘care and attention’ for the purposes of National Assistance Act 1948 s21. Asylum seekers did not qualify for s21(1)(a) NAA 1948 assistance merely because they lacked money and accommodation. However, the combined effect of their ignorance of the country, their inability to speak the language, their lack of food and accommodation etc., with the passage of time, was likely to produce one or more of the conditions specifically referred to in s21(1)(a).

The s21 duty can, in some circumstances, entail provision of basic accommodation (i.e. food and shelter) and not just accommodation providing more intensive care. Nevertheless, note that the arrangements being made must involve residential accommodation of some type; in the Gorenkin case, the High Court ruled that food vouchers, without accommodation, could not be given to asylum-seekers under s.21.

This case was decided pre >Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.

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