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Guidance on accommodating children in need and their families

The 1989 Act had always contained a duty to “advise and befriend", and a power to “give assistance", to young people under 21 who had been looked after by local authorities and voluntary organisations (see section 24).But the 2000 Act introduced much more specific duties towards “eligible” 16 and 17 year olds whom they were looking after (see 1989 Act, sched 2, para 19B) and, more importantly, towards such children when they ceased to be looked after by the children’s authority and became “relevant” children for this purpose (see 1989 Act, sections 23A, 23B and 23C).Section 20 contains several duties and powers to accommodate children, the relevant one for present purposes being in subsection (1):“Every local authority shall provide accommodation for any child in need within their area who appears to them to require accommodation as a result of(a) there being no person who has parental responsibility for him;(b) his being lost or having been abandoned;(c) the person who has been caring for him being prevented (whether or not permanently, and for whatever reason) from providing him with suitable accommodation or care.”This subsection contains two technical terms which require explanation.

This does not mean that the children’s authority can avoid their responsibilities by “passing the buck” to another authority; rather that they can ask another authority to use its powers to help them discharge theirs.”___________HOUSE OF LORDSSESSION 2008-09[2009] UKHL 26on appeal from:[2008]EWCA Civ 877OPINIONSOF THE LORDS OF APPEALFOR JUDGMENT IN THE CAUSER (on the application of G) (FC) (Appellant) v London Borough of Southwark (Respondents)Appellate Committee: Lord Hope of Craighead Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe Baroness Hale of Richmond Lord Mance Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury Counsel Appellant: Ian Wise, Azeem Suterwalla (Instructed by Fisher Meredith LLP)Respondents: Bryan Mc Guire, Peggy Etiebet (Instructed by Legal Services Department, London Borough of Southwark)Intervener, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families: Steven Kovats (written submissions only) (Instructed by Treasury Solicitors)Hearing dates:25 and 26 MARCH 2009ONWEDNESDAY HOUSE OF LORDSOPINIONS OF THE LORDS OF APPEAL FOR JUDGMENTIN THE CAUSER (on the application of G) (FC) (Appellant) v London Borough of Southwark (Respondents)[2009] UKHL 26 LORD HOPE OF CRAIGHEADMy Lords,1.

I have had the advantage of reading in draft the opinion of my noble and learned friend Baroness Hale of Richmond.

It comes as something of a surprise that the issue has had to reach this House, in the light of the observations in [2008] UKHL 14, [2008] 1 WLR 535 as to what ought to have happened in the reverse situation.

There the child had approached the housing authority and asked them to accommodate her.

Local housing authorities only have a duty under the 1996 Act to “secure that accommodation is available” where they have reason to believe that the applicant “may . While people with dependent children were expressly listed among those with priority need under section 189(1)(b), children themselves were not and so could only qualify if they were regarded as “vulnerable as a result of . But two groups of children are excluded from those in priority need under article 3: those to whom a children’s authority owe a duty under section 20 and “relevant” children who have previously been looked after by a local authority (see para 6).

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Guidance on accommodating children in need and their families

As was said in the Hammersmith and Fulham case, at para 31:“Such a young person has needs over and above the simple need for a roof over her head and these can better be met by social services.

Once again, therefore, we are back to the meaning of section 20. The appellant, A, was born in 1990 in Somalia and came to this country with his mother and siblings in 1998. He left school after completing his GCSE examinations in 2006.

Relations with his mother deteriorated during 2007 and in June she excluded him from home.

After that he was, as Rix LJ put it, “sofa surfing", sleeping on friends’ sofas or in cars, until 10 September 2007, when he consulted solicitors: [2009] 1 WLR 34, para 30.

They immediately advised him to present himself to the children’s services department, armed with a letter from them requesting an urgent assessment of his needs under section 17 of the 1989 Act and immediate accommodation under section 20(1).13.

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