Top judge slams Tower Hamlets and Havering for ‘shameful treatment’ of homeless family
PUBLISHED: 18:24 17 April 2015 | UPDATED: 19:20 17 April 2015
A top High Court judge has slammed two local authorities in east London tonight for their “shameful” failure to help a desperate homeless couple and their two children—including one with epilepsy.
Tower Hamlets council staff “washed their hands” of the family in what he said was an “inexcusable failure of good social work practice.”
The family was “dumped” on Havering which in turn the judge said took “shameful” steps to avoid responsibility.
The couple moved to the East End from Birmingham in 2011 while the mother was pregnant with their second child.
They stayed with relatives before approaching Tower Hamlets in 2012 for housing with their daughter, who was nearly three at the time and their 12-week-old son.
A needs assessment was started, when they were put in temporarily B&B in Havering, then Tower Hamlets claimed it was no longer responsible as they were now living outside the borough.
Each authority declared the other responsible—so the father took both to court through solicitors Myles and Partners in Aldgate.
Judge Justice Cobb today laid into both councils saying: “The strategy each authority adopted to avoid responsibility for the family was shameful—the children were pushed from pillar to post.”
He directed criticism at Tower Hamlets’ nit-picking approach to the family’s plight.
“By this time, no statutory obligation fell on Tower Hamlets,” he added. “But it was only reasonable it should complete its assessment.
“It was an inexcusable failure of good social work practice to wash its hands of the family.”
The couple had effectively been “dumped” on Havering and the lack of co-operation between the authorities breached the core aims of child protection legislation, he pointed out.
Tower Hamlets had “breached its statutory duty” in the way it dumped the family, bearing responsibility to arrange their short-term housing, while Havering’s failure to assess the children’s needs the judge said was “unlawful”.
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