Court backs council over housing policy

Three mothers who challenged a council’s
policy on dealing with intentionally homeless families have lost
their case.

The women, Dutch nationals originally from
Somalia, had claimed that Birmingham Council’s decision not to
house them and their 13 children amounted to a breach of their
human rights.

The authority had assessed the families’ needs
and decided that the women, who had fled domestic violence, should
return to the Netherlands. If they refused the offer, the council
would take their children into care under section 20 of the
Children Act 1989.

A high court judge ruled the council was
entitled to “take into account the acute strain so many new
arrivals placed on its scarce resources”.

Mr Justice Moses said that “an enormous
financial burden” had been put on the council by the 260 families,
85 per cent of Somali origin, who had applied for assistance during
the last year, costing £2.6m.

Birmingham Council had changed its policy on
housing intentionally homeless families following an increase in
arrivals from the Netherlands over the past two years.

Moses dismissed the claims by the women’s
counsel, Mr Christopher Vajda QC, that the decision to house
children but not their parents breached the council’s duty under
the Children Act to keep the family together.

The court heard that since the policy change
there had been a marked drop in the number of people from the

The mothers have remained in Birmingham,
despite the council’s policy, and now pass the habitual residence
test, which entitles them to income support. They were refused the
right to appeal against the ruling.


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