Lords ruling to split parents and children

Housing charity Shelter has condemned a decision by the House of
Lords last week to back two local authorities’ policy to offer
accommodation for homeless children but to refuse to house their

Parents are refused accommodation if they are intentionally
homeless or not entitled to housing.

Shelter’s director Adam Sampson said: “This judgment raises the
spectre of children being separated from their parents and taken
into care just because they are homeless.

“This is contrary to the spirit of the children’s green paper and
statements made by ministers when they amended the Children Act
last year to overcome this problem.”

The law lords made their ruling in response to a test case
challenge by three single mothers to Lambeth and Barnet Councils’
policies and whether they met their obligations under the Children
Act 1989 (news, page 8, 23 May 2002).

Lord Scott said that to quash the London councils’ “reasonable”
policy and require them to house families would allow such parents
to use their children as “stepping stones” to priority
accommodation in a way that would “drive a coach and horses through
the housing legislation”.

He added that an enforced change in policy would place an
unacceptable financial burden on councils.

The law lords were told that, although housing children alone was
of a similar cost to providing a family home, the threat of
separation led to many families finding accommodation on their own.

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