Street Legal hails success with repeat homelessness applications case
Street Legal, a partnership between Clan Childlaw and Shelter Scotland, has been successful in the highest civil court in Scotland in challenging the City of Edinburgh Council’s refusal to accept a homeless application from a family.
The two organisations provide free legal help with housing and homelessness for children and young people and families with children in Edinburgh.
A family with six children had applied as homeless in 2015 but had then not taken permanent accommodation the council offered them. In 2020 the family was evicted from temporary accommodation by the council. They had nowhere else to go and applied to the council again for assistance under the homelessness laws.
The council refused to consider the application, saying the family’s situation had not changed, and they had already help from the council.
The family contacted Street Legal and got a lawyer from Shelter. Their lawyers went to court to challenge the council’s decision. The court decided that the council’s approach was wrong and that they had not met their legal duty to the family.
The court decided that the council have a duty to accept a new application. The court stated that a core aim of the homelessness laws in Scotland is to provide accommodation to those who are homeless. The court said that personal circumstances must be considered when deciding not to accept a second application.
The decision is important as it comes from the highest civil court in Scotland and future Scottish cases should be in line with this decision. This means that this case will have a positive impact for anyone who finds themselves in the same situation as this family in the future.
The decision says clearly that local authorities cannot turn away someone who needs help with homelessness just because they have previously had help. The local authority must consider the personal circumstances of homelessness applicants and check whether there has been a change which means that a new application should be accepted.
This case shows the importance of free, accessible, specialist legal services like Street Legal. It is unusual for a homelessness case to reach the highest court in Scotland. This is in part because it can be difficult for children, young people, and families who are experiencing homelessness to access legal help. Through Street Legal Clan Childlaw and Shelter Scotland are working together to remove this barrier to justice and empower children, young people, and families to use their housing rights.
Trudy Gill, solicitor at Shelter Scotland, said: “This decision is not only a welcome outcome for our client but is equally important for homeless law in Scotland as a whole. Not only does the decision give some much needed clarity to the approach to be taken when a new or repeat homeless application is made in Scotland, it is a further step forward in protecting the rights of homeless people.
“Homelessness can be traumatic for those who need to rely on homeless assistance and more often than not, is required by some of the most vulnerable people of our society. We should not lose sight of the importance of protecting those rights and how important they are to homeless people at critical times in their lives.”