N v LB Newham [2013] EWHC 2475 (Admin)

FACTS: A Nigerian family of two young children and their parents were immigration overstayers with an outstanding application for leave to remain but no recourse to public funds. The family had a support network in the UK but claimed that they could no longer rely upon it. The LA carried out a core assessment of the children’s needs, but the parents refused to disclose information as to their support network. Its conclusion was that the parents would be able to provide for their children by calling on their support network. The claimants challenged the failure of both authorities to provide them with support and accommodation.

JUDGMENT: The judge held that since the parents refused to provide any details of their support network, it was impossible for Newham to ascertain whether it had been exhausted as claimed. Newham could not be criticised for failing to carry out a fuller investigation when the parents had failed to cooperate with its efforts to do so. Given their parents’ failure to cooperate, it was not surprising that Newham concluded that the children were not in need.

COMMENT: It is not uncommon for NRPF families who are seeking support to be reluctant to disclose information as to their means and support network. An identical issue arose in R (MN) v Hackney LB, which featured in our first edition. We repeat the comments we made there, where we doubted that it was open to an LA to decline to reach a conclusion on whether a child is in need – and thus purport to absolve itself of any duty – on the basis that their parents had provided it with insufficient information as to their support network. What an LA ought to do is to actually make a finding on the basis of the totality of the evidence before it, which will then be subject to review on rationality grounds. That is what the LA in N v Newham appears to have done. Even when faced with non-disclosure of information, therefore, LAs should still aim to make actual findings as to whether or not children are children in need.