West Law Report

Council must assess needs

Posted in Times Law Report by mrkooenglish on February 19, 2009

From The TimesFebruary 13, 2009

Council must assess needs
Court of Appeal
Published February 13, 2009
Regina (Liverpool City Council) v Hillingdon London Borough Council and Another
Before Lord Justice Rix, Lord Justice Dyson and Lord Justice Wilson
Judgment February 10, 2009

A local authority had failed to carry out its duty under section 20 of the Children Act 1989 when dealing with an asylum-seeker who claimed to be a child because it did not carry out an assessment of his welfare needs, or of the kind of accommodation that would be required to meet them.

The Court of Appeal so held allowing an appeal by Liverpool City Council from the dismissal by Mr James Goudie, QC, sitting as a deputy Queen’s Bench Division judge (The Times October 3, 2008), of its claim for judicial review against the London Borough of Hillingdon on the basis that the borough rather than the city should take responsibility for looking after AK as a child in need under section 20(1) of the 1989 Act.

Mr Bryan McGuire and Miss Peggy Etiebet for Liverpool; Mr Hilton Harrop-Griffiths for Hillingdon; Mr Adam Fullwood for AK.

LORD JUSTICE DYSON said the issue on the appeal was whether Hillingdon had discharged its duty under section 20(1) in relation to AK’s accommodation. It contended that it did and that, since it had returned AK to the Liverpool City Council area, the section 20(1) duty lay on Liverpool.

Hillingdon had maintained throughout that it had no responsibility for AK under the 1989 Act. It had merely ascertained that AK wished to go to Liverpool and assisted him to achieve his wish maintaining throughout that the section 20 duty was on Liverpool.

However, section 20(6) did not provide that the child’s wishes and feelings were determinative; they were to be given “due consideration”.

In his Lordship’s view, a local authority should reach the conclusion that the child’s wishes were decisive only as part of its overall judgment including an assessment of the child’s welfare needs and the type and location of accommodation that would meet those needs. That might be done swiftly and easily where the child was mature, articulate and intelligent and had strong and reasoned views on where he or she wanted to be.

Hillingdon had made no assessment of AK’s needs and it followed that they did not make any assessment of what kind of accommodation would meet those needs. They did not take account of his age, because they did not know what it was. They did not make any assessment of his understanding. They did not make inquiry of what accommodation would be available in Liverpool and whether it would be suitable for his needs. That was not a proper discharge of the section 20 duty.

Lord Justice Wilson agreed and Lord Justice Rix concurred in the result.

Solicitors: Ms Charlie Adan, Liverpool; Mr Rajesh Alagh, Hillingdon; Jackson & Canter, Liverpool.

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