Ensuring a disabled woman can live in accommodation suiting her needs

Case name: WL v Gosport Borough Council

This case involved mentally and physically disabled woman who applied to the council for assistance as a homeless person because where she was living was deemed detrimental to her health. 

Legal issue

How does a local housing authority assess whether accommodation is reasonable for a disabled person to occupy and therefore whether they owe them a housing duty?

Background

The woman involved in this case is a former member of the RAF who has physical and mental health problems. She lives in an adapted bungalow in an isolated rural area. She wants to move closer to her family and she applied to the council for assistance as a homeless person. Her argument was that although she was physically housed, it was not reasonable for her to continue to occupy her accommodation.

Why we were involved

This case came under our core priority aim of upholding the system of equality and human rights protections

What we did

We intervened in the Court of Appeal using our powers under section 30 Equality Act 2006.

What happened

The judgment of the Court of Appeal underlines that there should not be a distinction between physical and mental illness for the purposes of assessing whether someone is disabled under s.6 EA 2010 (paras 33-35 of the judgment).

The Court of Appeal also accepted our submissions in respect of how local authorities should approach their discretion under s.177 Housing Act 1996 (to have regard to the general housing circumstances in assessing whether accommodation is suitable to occupy) when it comes to assessing whether it is reasonable for a disabled person to continue to occupy unsuitable accommodation (see para 43 onwards of the judgment).

The Court of Appeal also emphasised that local authorities should have regard to the public sector equality duty at every stage of their decision making processes.

The effect of this is that the Local Authority will need to retake its decision that Ms L, a severely mentally and physically disabled woman who was living in accommodation that was agreed was detrimental to her physical and mental health, had accommodation that was “reasonable” for her to occupy.

Who will benefit and how

The impact of this is that the Local Authority will need to retake its decision that Ms L, a severely mentally and physically disabled woman who was living in accommodation that was agreed was detrimental to her physical and mental health, had accommodation that was “reasonable” for her to occupy.