Court of Appeal ruling safeguards rights for young people leaving care

13 October 2010

The Children's Society today welcomes a legal ruling that clarifies the duty of local authorities to provide accommodation for young people leaving care at the age of 18 where their welfare requires it.

It is a victory for children's rights campaigners who have become increasingly worried about the plight of some care leavers, particularly as many local authorities' planned spending cuts will inevitably reduce services in the coming months.

This decision impacts on care leavers nationwide where young people, for example those seeking asylum or those coming out of custody, are unable to access suitable accommodation through the normal housing routes.

In July 2010, The Children’s Society was granted leave to intervene in the case, which concerned an asylum seeking care leaver and his accommodation needs as he turned 18 years. The Children’s Society from its extensive practice work across England providing direct help for young people in care and for those seeking asylum, was able to assist the court by providing a wider perspective of current practice and the likely impact on young people of the court’s decision.

The case, brought by an asylum seeker from Eritrea, focused on whether the provision of accommodation to a care leaving asylum seeker should be the responsibility of his local authority (London Borough of Barking and Dagenham) or the National Asylum Support Service.

The Appeal Court considered what local authorities' responsibilities are under The Children Act in relation to the provision of accommodation as part of the ‘other assistance' it is able to give to young people. The Children's Society argued that the provision of accommodation was intended as a crucial 'safety net' to protect the welfare of young people as they leave care.

Bob Reitemeier, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society said: "We are delighted both with the outcome of this case and the fact that we have been able to assist the court with its decision. The Court of Appeal ruling has clarified the law and this will be especially important not just to the young people it directly affects but to all those working in children’s rights. It will help ensure that consistent decisions can be made concerning those young care leavers who are unable to secure suitable accommodation through the normal housing routes."

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For more information or to arrange interviews please contact:
The Children's Society's Media Team, Tel: 020 7841 4422 Email: mea@childsoc.org.uk, mobile: 07810 796 508.

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. The Children’s Society is a leading children’s charity committed to making childhood better for all children in the UK; www.childrenssociety.org.uk.The Children’s Society wants to create a society where children can be children, childhood is respected and every child is valued for who they are. In 2009 The Children’s Society published The Good Childhood Inquiry, the UK's first independent national inquiry into childhood. Its aims were to renew society's understanding of modern childhood and to inform, improve and inspire all our relationships with children. The Children's Society is continuing to improve this understanding of issues affecting children through all of its ongoing work.
2. Liz Fisher-Frank, from The Children's Society Legal Unit (Lawyers for Young People) is also available for comment.
3. The Children's Society was represented on a pro bono basis by Ian Wise QC and Steve Broach of Doughty St Chambers.
4. Presiding over the Court of Appeal were Lord Justice Jacob, Lord Justice Leveson and Lord Justice Tomlinson.