(Queens Bench Division (Admin); Holman J; 23 April 2007)
Certain issues arose in the course of proceedings concerning unaccompanied asylum-seeking minors who had been looked after by the relevant local authority for more than 13 weeks at the point of maturity: (i) whether any of the minors was a 'former relevant child' entitled to receive services and support under the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000, with particular reference to whether a local authority could specify that accommodation had been provided to a lone child in need under s 17 of Children Act 1989, when the duty to provide accommodation also arose under s 20; and (ii) whether Local Authority Circular No Lac (2003) 13 gave accurate guidance on the law relating to a local authority's assessment of unaccompanied asylum-seeking minors who were seeking accommodation and were within the authority's control. If a duty to provide accommodation had arisen under Children Act 1989, s 20, and accommodation had been provided to a child in need, the authority had to be regarded as having provided that accommodation under s 20 and not under s 17. The effect of LAC (2003) 13 was that in certain circumstances an authority might consider that a child required not accommodation, but 'help with accommodation' (which did not give rise to a duty under s 20). If the authority then provided no more than help, for instance some limited funding, neither a duty under s 20 nor the statutory consequences of the child being 'looked after' would arise. The correct approach was for the local authority to decide whether a child required 'accommodation' or merely 'help with accommodation' without having regard to the implications of the child thereafter being a 'looked after' child.