Are Asylum Seekers Entitled To Accommodation In The UK?


The Law Of… Housing Those In Need

The Court of Appeal has recently given its judgement in the appeal of SG v Haringey LBC, which involved one asylum seeker with serious mental health problems asking a local authority for accommodation in the UK.

Sarah Collier, Solicitor in Public Law, explains what this case means for other asylum seekers in a similar situation.

Background To The Case

SG was an asylum seeker who had been accommodated by the Home Office while her asylum claim was being considered. She suffered from a number of serious mental health issues and had approached social services in Haringey to ask for assistance with her housing and other support needs.

Under the previous law in England, local authorities had a duty to provide residential accommodation to all individuals with a need for care and support. But Haringey Social Services had still refused to provide SG with accommodation (although she was given support for her care needs).  

Offering Care And Support To Those In Need

In April 2015 the Care Act 2014 came into force.

Section 9 of this Act states that local authorities must assess adults who may need care and support to determine whether they do in fact have such needs and, if so, what these needs are.

The Care and Support (Eligibility Criteria) Regulations 2015/313 set out the eligibility criteria that an adult needs to meet in order to be eligible for support under the Act.

They meet the criteria if their needs arise from or are related to a physical impairment or illness, and due to this they cannot maintain a healthy lifestyle, such as:

  • Having a nutritious diet
  • Maintaining their personal hygiene
  • Managing their toilet needs
  • Being able to dress themselves

And, "as a consequence of this, there is likely to be a significant impact on their well-being", Sarah explains.  

Section 18 of the Act states that local authorities have a general duty to meet an adult’s needs for care and support if they fall within the eligibility criteria and they ordinarily live in the local authority’s area or are present in the area and have no settled residence anywhere else.

While it is recognised that the local authority has discretion as to how to meet the needs of an individual, there are some needs that will only be met if a particular service or facility is available. Accommodation-related needs are one example: these types of needs require care and support that can only be provided in a home environment.

In many cases, a local authority’s housing department will already be providing these individuals with such needs with accommodation under the Housing Act 1996.

But asylum seekers are not eligible for accommodation under the Housing Act, although they are entitled to assistance under the Care Act.

Challenges To Securing Accommodation

SG argued that Haringey should therefore provide her with accommodation as part of its duty to meet her needs. But Haringey’s response was that the council was entitled to choose not to provide housing to an asylum seeker with an accommodation-related need, even if they have no other means of being accommodated.

In the Court of Appeal, Haringey argued that even where there is an accommodation-related need for care and support, the local authority only has to provide housing if:

  • It is appropriate for such provision to be made as a social care service under the Care Act
  • The individual’s needs would have to be met in care home accommodation

Generally, asylum seekers and certain other individuals are excluded from mainstream benefits and housing services due to their immigration status. Haringey argued that all asylum seekers who had accommodation-related needs for care and support would have to receive domiciliary care in asylum support accommodation unless they needed to be in a care home.

This would also impact non-asylum seeking people who are not entitled to accommodation under the Housing Act, who would be prevented from receiving help with accommodation from social services departments as a result of this interpretation.

Sarah comments:

"Ultimately, the Court of Appeal declined to pass judgment on this issue in SG v Haringey, having taken the view that the High Court judge’s comments on this point were said in passing."

"But, the Court of Appeal’s judgment is useful in that the High Court decision in SG can no longer be used to support a local authority’s argument that the decision of whether to provide accommodation to a person with accommodation-related needs was up to their discretion."

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