Dispute resolution, general litigation, accident and professional negligence claims, housing, welfare benefits, social and medical needs


20 February 2015

Southwark Council has been ordered to stop breaking the law by turning away homeless people who apply for housing in the borough.

A High Court order in judicial review proceedings has required the London local authority "to cease with immediate effect the policies and practices" which had led to a homeless family being told to look for accommodation in the private market before the council would investigate whether they were homeless.

The family's solicitor, Lara ten Caten of Hansen Palomares, said:

"For years we have been concerned about the way Southwark has been turning away homeless people in clear breach of the law. The victims have included refugees, a young person leaving care who was also a victim of domestic violence, a blind woman and many, many more. Some were refused temporary accommodation. When challenged, Southwark has always claimed that it was a mistake or some rogue officer who had misunderstood council policy."

However, this time Southwark's legal department responded in writing that it was the council's policy to send applicants to the private sector before it would investigate whether they were homeless.

This kept the numbers of homeless applications and on the waiting list artificially low. But it was also against the law. Under the Housing Act 1996 local authorities must investigate applications from anyone "it has reason to believe may be homeless or threatened with homelessness" and provide temporary accommodation to those with children or who appear vulnerable.

So, after at first trying to contest the proceedings, Southwark has now submitt!3d to the High Court order that it must abandon its unlawful practices, scrap its misleading public information leaflets and inform homeless applicants of their rights.

The application for judicial review was started in May 2014. The homeless applicant was represented by Hansen Palomares Solicitors and barrister Jamie Burton from Doughty Street Chambers.

A brief summary of the facts, legal proceeding and law together with copies of the order and claim for judicial review can be found here:


Judicial Review Claim

Consent Order

Lara ten Caten: 02076404600; 07934864544; ltencaten@hansenpalomares.co.uk

Jamie Burton: j.burton@doughtystreet.co.uk