The court move was taken against Tower Hamlets LBC by the man, who has not worked since 1981 and whose whole family are wholly dependent on social security benefits live in a small two bedroom flat on the ground floor of a council-owned block.
A report on the community care needs of the family was carried out which indicated that over-crowding was the family's main problem. An assessment by a community mental health nurse also indicated that the best way of ensuring maintenance of the mental stability of the man at the centre of the case was by his transfer to more suitable accommodation.
It was in those circumstances that an application was made to the court for a ruling that the council was under an absolute duty to provide accommodation under section 21 of the 1948 Act. The section provides authorisation for councils to provide residential accommodation for those over 18 who by reason of age, illness disability or other circumstances are in need of care an attention which is not otherwise available to them.
In this case it was argued that the man had a need for accommodation because of his schizophrenia. However, the council argued that although he needed accommodation, he was receiving appropriate care and attention and, therefore, as care and attention was 'otherwise available' it was under no absolute duty to re-house.
Backing the council and dismissing the application Mr Justice Stanley Burnton said it had been established that the applicant needed housing accommodation by reasons of illness but he accepted the council's assessment that he was not in need of care and attention that was not otherwise available.
He said the assessment of the community mental nursing officer was not relevant as he was not an employee or officer of the authority. In the circumstances there was no duty on the council to provide the accommodation sought.
R (on the application of Wahid) v Tower Hamlets London Borough Council - before Stanley Burnton J - 23 August 2001 - James Goudie QC and Zia Nabi (instructed by Miles & Partners) appeared for the applicant; Stephen Knafler (instructed by Akin Alabi) appeared for the respondent.