The Housing team have recently won a s204 appeal on a very interesting point about care leavers and vulnerability.
The case concerned interpretation of regulation 4 of The Homelessness (Priority Need for Accommodation) (England) Order 2002 which extended the categories of people who could be vulnerable. The relevant category in this case was:
A person (other than a relevant student) who—
(a) is under twenty-one; and
(b) at any time after reaching the age of sixteen, but while still under eighteen,
was, but is no longer, looked after, accommodated or fostered.”
The client’s circumstances were that when he was 15 he was involved in a fight with his father who threw him out of the family home. After spending some time with his grandparents, the client then stayed with the grandmother of his friend in Peckham until he turned 18. At the time he became homeless he came to the attention of Croydon Social Services who appear to have done very little. There is currently a case pending about whether he should be given leaving care rights which is being dealt with by our Community Care department.
After the client turned 18, he moved on to another friend, and when that ended applied to Southwark as homeless. He was 19 at the time he applied to Southwark.
We argued that he was vulnerable due to regulation above. The arrangement with the friend’s grandmother was a fostering arrangement.
Southwark’s argument was that he did not fall within that category because the definition of fostered is covered by ss 66 and 105 Children Act 1989 which states that someone is fostered if they are a child under the age of 16.
We argued that this was contrary to the intention of Parliament to extend support to a group who have had a less than propitious start in life. This was supported by research into the debates in Hansard when the Order was laid.
The Judge agreed with us and in particular was influenced by the material in the Parliamentary debates.
The Judge found that regarding the term “privately fostered” in section 24(2) of the Children Act would not be redundant, as argued by Southwark, as the term would still apply to 16 and 17 year olds with a disability. However, the Judge did not accept that the intention of Parliament in section 24(2) was to restrict the meaning to 16 and 17 year olds with a disability only. This was further supported by sections 105 and 66 not defining “privately fostered” but rather define more specific terms, which have particular significance to the part of the Act to which section 66 applies. The Judge therefore agreed with our construction of section 24(2).
The Judge also went on to say that pursuant to Pepper v Hart, he considered that the Hansard extracts did not suggest that Parliament had intended to restrict priority need to privately fostered 16 and 17 year olds with disabilities, but that the intent of the 2002 Order was to protect vulnerable 16 and 17 year old more generally.
The barrister who put forward the argument was Alex Campbell from Field Court Chambers.