GT Stewart have been successful in ensuring that a vulnerable client’s case is looked at again after a Council wrongly applied its own policy towards her. The client became homeless in around 2015 after fleeing domestic and sexual violence at the hands of her husband. She approached Southwark Council for assistance on several occasions, and was found to be not in priority need for housing.
After she approached GT Stewart earlier this year, we assisted her to request a review under Section 202 of the latest decision that she was not in priority need. During the course of the review, Southwark Council confirmed to GT Stewart that they have a policy that applies the priority need provision of the Domestic Abuse Bill as if it was in force. This means that they automatically give priority need status to ‘a person who is homeless as a result of being a victim of domestic abuse’. This policy is likely to have been in place since at least 28/04/2020 when Neil Coyle MP told Parliament that Southwark had adopted it, and yet it had not been considered when the Council decided in May 2020 that our client was not in priority need.
During a Section 202 review, a reviewing officer can acknowledge an error like this, but still decide to uphold the original negative decision. However, if they do this they must send the applicant a “minded to” letter. Southwark Council did not send a “minded to” letter in this case, meaning that our client was denied the opportunity to respond directly to this error in the review representations that we made on her behalf.
In their review decision the Council decided that their policy did not apply to our client because she was not homeless as a direct result of the abuse. As this is not, in our view, the correct application of the policy, and as they failed to send a “minded to” letter, we wrote to the Council threatening to appeal in court against their decision. The Council withdrew their decision the next day.
We have now been successful in securing an extension of our client’s interim accommodation while a new review decision is pending. We will continue to fight for our client to be recognised as in priority need and for the Council to agree to provide her with suitable permanent housing. In the meantime, others who become homeless as a result of being a victim of domestic abuse can argue for Southwark Council’s policy to be applied properly to their case.
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