We acted for a victim of domestic abuse who was homeless with her children after fleeing her abusive husband. She approached a London local authority, who accepted a duty to rehouse her but made her an offer of private rented accommodation in Luton. This was an area unfamiliar to our client and where she had no support network. She reluctantly accepted the offer and requested a review of the suitability.
Until she fled the domestic abuse, our client had been working full-time. She had to give up work but intended to go back to working. Because she had to claim Universal Credit and had two dependent children, she was affected by the benefit cap. One way to be exempt from the benefit cap is to work at least 16 hours per week but, because of her circumstances, our client had to give up her work and was not yet able to find further employment.
This meant that accommodation in and close to the borough where she applied as homeless was not affordable. It is well-established that women are disproportionately affected by the benefit cap, and that victims of domestic abuse (who are more likely to be women) are less likely to be able to find or keep employment so as to exempt them from the benefit cap.
The local authority had a policy, as well as a practice, that they will generally place people outside of London where more affordable accommodation is not available locally. They did not discuss with our client her employment history or her plan to find further work. We argued that the effect of this was to disproportionately affect women to the extent that it was unlawful indirect discrimination under s19 Equality Act 2010.
The local authority accepted that the property was unsuitable and have now accepted a duty to rehouse our client once more.