Joshua Swirsky to represent local authority in judicial review of its practice in accommodating homeless 16-17-year-olds 

17 March 2023

Joshua Swirsky is acting for the London Borough of Lambeth in a legal challenge to its practice of accommodating some homeless 16–17-year-olds under the Housing Act 1996.

A High Court judge has granted permission for a 17-year-old (RW) to bring full judicial review proceedings against the local authority’s practice. The decision in R(RW) v LB Lambeth[2023] EWHC 702 (Admin) is available in full via Bailii.

RW claims that the local authority failed to treat her as a “looked after” child by providing accommodation under the Housing Act, rather than according to the provisions of the Children Act 1989.

Background to the judicial review application

The Housing Act 1996 and the Children Act 1989 interplay arises when 16-17-year-olds become homeless in the context of a family breakdown.

Following the well-known case of R(G) v LB Southwark [2009] UKHL 26, in most circumstances such young people should be accommodated under s20 of the Children Act 1989 (ie as looked after children).

However, some children decline this service; they can be accommodated under Part VII of the Housing Act 1996. Often the London Borough of Lambeth discharges this Housing Act duty by providing supported accommodation.

The applicant is challenging this on the basis that the local authority’s approach induces young people to choose Housing Act accommodation instead of Children Act accommodation, and is therefore unlawful.

The local authority argues that the accommodation it provides is consistent with guidance from central government.

There are also case specific issues as to the information RW actually received when applying to the local authority as homeless.

The case will now go for a full judicial review.