A 2018 estimate by the housing charity Shelter indicated that at least 320,000 in the UK are homeless, a figure that not only includes the street homeless but also those “sofa-surfing” or sleeping in insecure accommodation such as cars etc. Against this backdrop the pressure on local authorities to fulfil their statutory duties towards the homeless (notwithstanding a limited supply of housing stock) is intense.
Those duties are complex and require diligent assessments of such matters as: eligibility for assistance, whether a person is legally homeless, whether they are in priority need and whether the homelessness is lawfully (if indelicately) described as “intentional. Furthermore, entitlement to accommodation under Part VII of the HA 1996 is a “civil right” under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (as scheduled to the Human Rights Act 1998). This being the case the actions of local authorities are naturally placed under particular scrutiny, with public funding often available to those seeking to challenge decisions in this area. The decisions made by some local authorities to make “out of area placements” have been subject to high profile legal cases and media reports. These underline the difficulties faced by local authorities in the current climate and the personal impact on tenants of such decisions.