Poverty and Inequality

04.02.19

Mother appeals to Supreme Court after Birmingham City Council declared her ‘intentionally homeless’

Birmingham City Council is being taken to the Supreme Court by a woman who claimed she was forced into homelessness by the council.

The mother-of-four was declared “intentionally homeless” after the city council said she should have plugged a £35 shortfall between her housing benefit and her rent using non-housing benefits.

But she claims she was forced to spend the money on food over rent, and two charities have backed her case and called the council’s practice “unlawful.”

The court listing said the woman was a tenant in a house in West Bromwich, Sandwell from November 2010 to July 2011 and was “in receipt of benefits, including housing benefit, which did not cover her actual rent, but left her with a monthly shortfall.”

Her private tenancy of £700-a-month was terminated due to unpaid rent, and the woman made a homelessness application for assistance to Birmingham City Council.

The council judged her to have “become homeless intentionally” because her house was affordable and “the loss of the accommodation was the result of her deliberate act in failing to pay the rent.”

The court’s listing says she appealed, claiming the respondent had failed to follow the relevant guidance and questioning the decision to conclude that there was sufficient flexibility in her income to fund her rent.

In the Court of Appeal, judges dismissed the appeal after agreeing with the original judgement that the woman had been given “a more than adequate expression of the reasons for the decision.”

Judge Worster said: “I do not think that the judge fell into error in any of the respects advanced under the third ground of appeal,” and the case has now been appealed to the Supreme Court.

The woman has received backing from both the Child Poverty Action Group and Shelter, with the latter’s campaign director saying: “When someone is forced to choose between rent and keeping their children fed, they cannot be viewed as ‘intentionally’ homeless when they choose the latter.”

Image credit - William Barton

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