Deputy high court judge Sir Christopher Bellamy has ruled that the council allocated its housing contrary to its own housing allocation policy and that this was in breach of the housing legislation.
The judge said that the woman, who cannot be named, had been living with her daughter, who is 13 this month, in a single room at a council's hostel since January 1998.
They were originally housed there on a temporary basis, following the woman's application for assistance as a homeless person. She has a back injury which has prevented her from working since 1995, and also has a history of depression and psychiatric difficulties which, the judge said, appeared to be partly caused by her housing situation.
The judge said that the woman claimed she had, at one point, suffered a nervous breakdown and taken an overdose of pills, and made a request that her daughter be taken into care. The social services, in response, categorised the mother as qualifying for the Group F referral class for housing allocation.
She claimed that the council had prioritised Group E homeless people
disproportionately, in conflict with its own allocation policy adopted in July 2000.
Upholding that claim today, the judge said: 'The evidence reveals a
disturbing failure on the part of the council's services, particularly by the housing department, over the past three years at least, to respond to the needs of this family as identified by the social services department.
'The change in priority, which is in effect, the promotion of group E (homeless) at the expense of the other groups, seems to me to be a major deviation from the policy as published in July 2000.
'Section 167(8) of the 1996 Housing Act requires a local housing authority not to allocate housing except in accordance with their allocation scheme. In this case 'the allocation scheme' is that published in July 2000.
'To the extent that, since September 2000, the council has allocated housing not in accordance with the order of priority in the policy published in July 2000, it seems to me that it must follow that it has acted in breach of section 167(8) of the Act and, in consequence, unlawfully.'
L v LB Lambeth - 5 November - Jonathan Manning instructed by Ziadies for L - Jane Oldham instructed by Sternberg Reed Taylor & Gill for LB Lambeth
STRAND NEWS SERVICE