Penal charity the Howard League yesterday lost a second legal challenge to a London council’s decision to place a 17-year-old girl in a bed and breakfast rather than accommodate her as a child in need.
Counsel Ian Wise argued that the girl, known as M, should not have been treated as homeless under the Housing Act 1996 but supported under the Children Act 1989 by Hammersmith and Fulham Council.
Although the girl had never been formally in the council’s care, he said she was “plainly and obviously a child in need” and should have been referred to social services.
But judges at the Court of Appeal this week rejected the charity’s argument. Lord Justice Wall said there was nothing in evidence that would have required the council, on the facts of the case, and as a matter of law, to designate her as a child in need.
“It would have been absurd if a housing department had to turn away a homeless 17-year-old who had never been in care or looked after by a local authority on the ground that social services owed her a duty to accommodate her under the Children Act…as a child in need,” he said.
M had turned to the council for help after being asked to leave home in April 2004. She was later detained at Cookham Young Offender Institution and was then not entitled to help as a care leaver because she had not been in the local authority’s care.