Social work assessment defended in court after claims it was ‘irrational’

A judicial review into a local authority's decision not to deem children as needing support was eventually permitted

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A social worker’s assessment has been defended in court after it was attacked for being “irrational and unreasonable” in an application for a judicial review.

Lawyers, on behalf of two children, applied for a judicial review of Haringey council’s decision to deny them section 17 support while they and their mother were staying with a friend and were, as a result, having to sleep on a kitchen floor.

The mother had struggled to find accommodation for herself and the children, relying on staying with friends, for more than six months before the social work assessment was completed.

Lawyers argued that the social workers’ assessment on section 17 support had concluded the children’s living situation was “suitable”, when it clearly wasn’t.

Neil Cameron QC, who heard the application, rejected the claims and said the social worker had made a reasonable judgement that the mother was earning a wage and could therefore secure rental accommodation, as she had done so in the past.

The social worker had also made recommendations on areas where the mother might be able to reduce her costs such as considering moving out of London to find cheaper accommodation. Lawyers for the children had claimed this was irrational but Cameron ruled they were legitimate recommendations.

Diminishing resources

Cameron added that these decisions are made “against a background of diminishing available resources”.

“Assessments of this kind should not be analysed as if they were a court’s judgment.”

However, Cameron still allowed the judicial review on the basis the local authority had been wrong in denying support, in part, because it had concluded the mother was unreliable.

Cameron said factoring the mother’s unreliability into a decision on need for the children, was “unreliable and unfair”.

“I have concluded that it cannot be said to be highly likely that the outcome for the claimants would not have been substantially different if an unfair procedure had not been adopted.”

At a previous hearing, the authority had been told to provide interim relief to the family until the conclusion of proceedings. The family were provided with accommodation, which the mother contributed to.

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One Response to Social work assessment defended in court after claims it was ‘irrational’

  1. Arturo Sensi November 4, 2016 at 6:39 pm #

    So in the new social work it is acceptable for children to sleep on kitchen floors, for mothers to be told to leave London to get accommodation because we are happy to collude with an arbitrarily defined “diminishing available resources” How naive it all is that we once used to believe in advocating equality and fought poverty and now we unquestioningly think its ethical to tell people to leave their communities if they can’t afford to live in London. So proud of us.