In R (on the application of H) v London Borough of Newham (22
October 2001), the claimant sought to enforce the council’s duties
to carry out assessments under the Carers and Disabled Children Act
2000 and the Children Act 1989.
H was a seven-year-old child with autism who lived with his
mother and younger sister (against whom he was violent). His mother
was faced with eviction from her private property tenancy, and the
evidence made it clear that wherever she was rehoused there would
be an increase in the needs of H, whom she already found it hard to
care for. The mother requested assessments for Children Act
services (respite care, a sitter, assistance in the home) and also
of her ability to care under the 2000 act.
The council agreed to house H and his family in suitable
accommodation pending an offer of permanent accommodation. The
council agreed that it had to carry out assessments, but argued
that it had a discretion as to when the assessments were commenced.
The council wanted to carry out the assessments when an offer of
permanent accommodation was made, although it could not say when
this would be.
The judge rejected this argument and held that where there were
possible needs and where there was no timescale for providing the
permanent accommodation the assessments should be carried out
within 35 working days as provided for in the “Framework for
Assessment of Children and their Families” document. The judge made
an order accordingly.
Comment: The case indicates that the courts
will enforce the carrying out of community care assessments, and in
cases where need of services is indicated by the situation of the
family, will not allow the council to dictate when the assessments
will take place.