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Croydon Council breached human rights of disabled man living in asylum accommodation

The question of who has the duty to provide accommodation where a person has certain needs under the Care Act 2014 has been the subject of recent litigation and appears to have been resolved in the Home Secretary’s favour. In R (TMX) v London Borough of Croydon & Anor [2024] EWHC 129 (Admin) the High Court held that the provision of accommodation under section 95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 could not be taken into account by a local authority when determining whether a person had “accommodation related” care needs.

Background

The claimant is a 50 year old man with progressive multiple sclerosis, functional neurological disorder and the painful condition paraesthesia. Since June 2022 he had been living in an ensuite bedroom in a hostel, 5 x 3.5 metres, with his wife and two children, a boy and a girl aged ten and 14.

A few weeks after he was moved there, the claimant was admitted to hospital and discovered that his multiple sclerosis had worsened and his levels of physical impairment would continue to get worse. The room they were living in contained a hoist bed for the claimant, a single bed for his wife and bunk beds for the children. The claimant was particularly upset at the impact his physical challenges, which included the use of a catheter and incontinence pads, were having on his children.

The claimant is wheelchair bound and his room was on the fourth floor. There was no lift that went to street level and so the claimant was unable to leave unless he found people who could carry him part of the way down, a journey described by the judge as “a difficult and treacherous operation carrying significant risks of injury both to the Claimant and to the people carrying him”.

The legal position

The Care Act 2014 places a duty on local authorities to provide care and support to adults with social care needs. This includes people seeking asylum, if they have relevant care needs. This can include “accommodation-related needs” which is where the care needs can only be met in an effective manner if the adult is provided with accommodation in which they can receive the necessary care. The duty only requires accommodation to be provided where the person has no other entitlement to it.

The Home Secretary has a duty under section 95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 to provide accommodation and other basic support to those seeking asylum who would otherwise be destitute.

This case sought to determine whether the local authority or the Home Secretary had responsibility for providing accommodation, under the applicable legislation.

The local authority had accepted that the claimant had care needs that it must meet and it was providing him with daily visits from a care assistant. However Croydon’s position was that the claimant did not have accommodation related needs. It was argued that as the care provided to the claimant could be provided outside a care home setting, the Home Secretary was responsible for providing that suitable accommodation under section 95. It would then follow that the care needs did not require accommodation as the claimant could be housed by the Home Secretary.

The claimant and the Home Secretary both argued that this was incorrect and that the section 95 entitlement only arose where a person had no other entitlement to accommodation. The court agreed that responsibility for providing accommodation lay with Croydon and not the Home Secretary.

The second issue was whether the local authority had breached the claimant’s human rights by leaving him in the asylum hostel, which was unsuitable accommodation. Unsurprisingly, given the conditions and poor quality of life for the claimant that are described in detail in the judgment, breaches of articles 3 and 8 were found to have taken place over a period of seven months.

Conclusion

It is appalling to think about what this family have been subjected to, on top of having to deal with the claimant’s illness. The judge clearly agreed, as he took the unusual step of stating at the end of the hearing that he had found against Croydon and ordering them to provide suitable accommodation without further delay. Hopefully this decision will mean that others in similar situations can access support from the local authorities more easily.

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Sonia Lenegan

Sonia Lenegan

Sonia Lenegan is an experienced immigration, asylum and public law solicitor. She has been practising for over ten years and was previously legal director at the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association and legal and policy director at Rainbow Migration. Sonia is the Editor of Free Movement.

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