R (on the application of AHMED) v ENFIELD LONDON BOROUGH COUNCIL [2017]

Keywords: Housing, Care Act, Interim Relief

The applicant had mental health problems and was seeking judicial review of his local authority’s assessment of his care needs.

Under the Care Act, as previously, the care needs of the adult must be accommodation-related for accommodation to be potentially a duty. This means that the adult’s care needs must require care of a sort which is normally provided in the home or will be effectively useless if the claimant has no home (R (SG) by her litigation friend the Official Solicitor v London Borough of Haringey [2015]).

A temporary interim order had been granted on the papers and the council had offered accommodation (which appears to have been in supported accommodation of some type). The applicant had refused that accommodation, stating to a social worker that he did not want accommodation that was shared or was a mental health resource as he was afraid that people there would kill him. He had, instead, stayed with his cousin. He was now asking the council to provide bed and breakfast accommodation without support.

In deciding whether to grant an injunction for interim relief, the test (American Cyanamid Co (No 1) v Ethicon Ltd [1975] UKHL 1 (05 February 1975)) is:
a) Is there a serious issue to be tried?
b) If so, what inconvenience or loss would each party suffer depending on whether the interim injunction was or was not granted?

The court concluded that (a) was not satisfied in relation to the Care Act, because he was now seeking simply accommodation.

However, the applicant did have an arguable case on the grounds of a material flaw in the social care assessment in terms of:
• Whether the applicant had been properly advised about his entitlement to have a representative with him at the assessment (presumably what is meant here is an advocate or an informal supporter) because the council had failed to consider whether the applicant’s mental condition may have influenced his decision not to have one;
• Whether the local authority had had regard to the most recent report of a mental health expert who stated that the applicant mental health had significantly deteriorated;
There was also an issue as to whether the flaws amounted to a breach of ECHR article 3 (inhuman or degrading treatment) or article 8 (home and family life).

In relation to the balance of convenience (issue b), the local authority had concluded that it did not need to provide the applicant with interim accommodation because he always managed to secure accommodation with friends and relatives. The applicant contended that the deterioration in his mental health evidenced by the expert report meant that this was no longer the situation. The local authority social worker’s assessment set out that the applicant could interact with his relatives and friends; that he participated in social activities; maintained a routine; was well groomed and not destitute when he was not accommodated by the council. There was evidence that the applicant had been experiencing mental health problems for a number of years but had nevertheless managed to obtain accommodation with friends or relatives. The court placed particular weight on the fact that, even since he had declined the council’s offer of accommodation made under the initial interim order, the applicant had not actually been homeless. Therefore, interim relief for the provision of accommodation was refused.

Comment: thank goodness for relatives, but a lesson for preparing a case: they need to be cruel to be kind, ie say no, in order to provide the evidence base that they will not do the State’s duty for it, just because it won’t.

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