Local authorities must provide housing to people in need

The case of Batantu v LB of Islington on 8 November 2000
highlights the continuing tensions and misunderstandings when both
housing and community care duties come into play. Mr Batantu had
mental health problems and shared a small twelfth floor flat with
his wife and four children. A community care assessment indicated
that the accommodation was contributing to Mr Batantu’s
mental health problems.

The assessment concluded that Mr Batatantu needed a ground-floor
property with enough space to house the rest of his family. A
Children Act assessment also pointed to the most significant
problem being overcrowding. In terms of re-housing by the housing
department the indications were that it would be a number of years
before a permanent property would become available. Mr Batantu did
not want to explore the provision of privately rented

It was clear that the council treated the problem as a housing
problem and not, until the court hearing, as a community care
problem. However, the court decided that as the assessment firmly
assessed his need for accommodation, then there was a duty to
provide that accommodation. The court also said:

It was not sufficient to say that the housing department would
meet the need at sometime in the future.

Mr Batantu’s refusal to accept private rented
accommodation did not discharge the duty to accommodate him.

The council could not say “we don’t have the resources to
meet the need”.

The council could buy a property and let it to Mr Batantu by way
of a long lease if all else fails.

Nothing had been done for the nine months since the assessment
and the court would therefore order that the council to identify a
property within 3 months and then the make it available within a
further three months after that.

Comment: This is the latest in a line of cases where the court
has been reluctant to allow councils to avoid their duties under
section 21 of the National Assistance Act 1948 when there has been
an assessed community care need for accommodation. The message is
clear: if social services departments assess a person as needing
accommodation during a community care assessment, then that
accommodation will have to be provided in a short period of time,
whether or not the council has the available housing stock.

Stephen Cragg

Doughty Street Chambers

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.