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Council acted unlawfully when assessing whether applicant was 'former relevant child'

The High Court has ruled that the London Borough of Ealing acted unlawfully in its assessment of whether applicant AB was a ‘former relevant child’ within the meaning of section 23C of the Children Act 1989.

In AB, R (On the Application Of) v The London Borough of Ealing [2019] EWHC 3351 Mathew Gullick, sitting as a Deputy Judge of the High Court, ruled the assessment had been unlawful but rejected a further ground that only one lawful outcome had been open to Ealing.

Ealing had refused to exercise its discretion to treat AB as if she were a ‘former relevant child’, meaning that although she is now an adult she does not have access to continuing support, which she would have received if she had been cared for by Ealing prior to her 18th birthday.

AB came from a family with a long history of contact with social services. In September 2018, aged 17 and a half, she left the family home to live with her boyfriend and his family.

In October 2018, social services contacted AB by telephone, when she stated she would like further support from Ealing children's services.

The council did not dispute that she was a ‘child in need’ but disagreed that it had a duty to accommodate her under section 20 of the 1989 Act.

Mr Gullick said: “In my judgment, the defendant when conducting the assessment in October 2018 failed to address, whether in form or in substance, the question which it was required to address under section 20(1)(c) of the 1989 Act.”

He added: “The assessment contained a significant deal of narrative but fell well short when it came to analysis. The defendant's assessment left unanswered the issue of whether the accommodation that would be available to the claimant in the family home was ‘suitable’ or not.

“The assessment…was therefore unlawful. Insofar as the defendant relied on that assessment when refusing in February 2019 to treat the claimant as if she were a ‘former relevant child’ then that subsequent refusal is also unlawful.”

Mark Smulian

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