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'Persistent and endemic failures on the part of neighbouring local authorities to co-operate with each other in resolving such issues in individual cases have regrettably resulted in vulnerable families…being without support or services. It is unacceptable for the authorities simply to stonewall each other while attempting to offload their obligations.'Similar conflicts between local authorities have become increasingly common due to the shortage of available housing and the housing benefit cap, resulting in boroughs seeking to house families in lower rent boroughs elsewhere. In a judgement which will affect how local authorities will have to treat similar cases in future, Mr Justice Cobb ruled that the local authority responsible for assessing the needs of children in these cases should be the borough in which the family were actually living (in this case Havering), and the local authority responsible for providing housing whilst an assessment of the children’s needs takes place, should be the authority that had placed them there (in this case Tower Hamlets). He also called for statutory guidance to be made available to local authorities to clarify which authorities are responsible for assessing the needs of children and the provision of housing in circumstances similar to this family.
'We are extremely pleased with the outcome of this judgment. With “out of borough” placements of homeless families becoming widespread, vulnerable families were finding themselves being batted to and fro between the placing and receiving boroughs when they tried to access services for their children from a social services authority. This judgment has clarified not only who should carry out an assessment of the family’s children’s needs but who should provide housing while that assessment takes place, meaning that vulnerable families are protected and housed during the process. We hope this judgment means our client’s appalling experience of being evicted while two Local Authorities argued about who was responsible for his family will not be repeated for other families in the future.'Although Mr Justice Cobb refused permission for the councils to appeal yesterday, it is understood that both the London Borough of Havering and the London Borough Hamlets are still seeking to appeal the judgment to the Court of Appeal.
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