Council ‘failed’ homeless
A High Court judge has accused Birmingham City Council of making “significant mistakes” after failing to provide housing for three homeless people.
Mr Justice Foskett found the authority had rushed through the trio’s homeless applications and failed in its duty to provide emergency accommodation. He rejected criticisms in relation to a fourth applicant.
But he ruled out any “cynical wrongdoing”, saying instead the council’s housing department was guilty of “oversight and ill-considered drafting rather than anything more sinister”.
The ruling was the second public rebuke for the housing team in less than a year following a similar judgement last November in favour of two homeless people, Neville Kelly and Yohanis Mehari.
Mr Foskett said the authority had failed to learn from the mistakes pinpointed in last year’s ruling, saying email guidance issued by a senior housing official in one of the cases failed to spell out the council’s duty to deal with emergency housing applications.
He said there appeared to be an “internal ethos” of trying to “jump as many hurdles as quickly as possible” in dealing with homeless applicants.
“That approach could well cause – and indeed probably has in those cases caused – a wrong decision to have been made,” Mr Foskett said.
He concluded: “While I do not underestimate the practical difficulties faced by the council in fulfilling its duties, the nature of those duties is well-established and ought to be capable of being applied without the significant mistakes made in the cases before me.”
All four claimants have now been accommodated by the council, the court heard
A Birmingham City Council spokesman said the email at the heart of the latest court case was not authority policy and had been “ill-considered”.
He said: “This case followed an email issued in February 2010 to frontline staff concerning the way in which homeless applications were to be dealt with.
“In all three cases, the directions set out in the orders have already been complied with and this was acknowledged by the court.”
The spokesman said there had been a thorough review in the light of both cases and the authority remained committed to looking after those at risk of homelessness.