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HOUSING: R (M) v Hammersmith and Fulham London Borough Council [2006] EWCA Civ 917
Date:30 AUG 2006

(Court of Appeal; Pill, Wall and Lloyd LJJ; 5 July 2006) [2006] 2 FLR (forthcoming)

The child approached the local authority when she was 17 years old, seeking housing. The authority provided her with temporary accommodation under the Housing Act 1996, on the basis that she was potentially a priority need homeless case. The child challenged that decision, claiming that the authority ought to have identified her as a child in need, and provided her with housing and other services under the Children Act 1989. Although the child had had a very disturbed childhood, including exclusion from school and offences of robbery and threats to kill, the child had never been in council care.

In the case of a child who had not been in care, or looked after by the authority, and who was not disabled or unwell, it was not incumbent on a housing officer to treat her as a child in need. The child had been in priority need of housing, which had been supplied. The alternative interpretation would result in the absurdity of an obligation on the housing department to reject such a claim and to refer the child to social services. The authority had a duty thereafter to investigate the child's circumstances.