Court Affirms Local Authorities' Duty to Provide Prompt and Suitable Accommodation for Children in Need

Citation: [2023] EWHC 3209 (Admin)
Judgment on


In the case of BC v Surrey County Council [2023] EWHC 3209 (Admin), Mr Justice Calver delivered a judgment focusing on the obligations of local authorities under the Children Act 1989 (CA89) to provide accommodation for children in need. The court examined whether Surrey County Council (SCC) had a duty to provide accommodation for the claimant (BC) under section 20 of the CA89, the nature of such accommodation, and BC’s subsequent status as a person qualifying for advice and assistance.

Key Facts

BC, the claimant, argued that he was a child in need due to a failure by SCC to provide accommodation when he was 17 years old. This issue evolved from a troubled family background and several interventions by social services over time. On 13 September 2019, BC approached a local housing authority and was referred to SCC for support, eventually leading to this judicial review. The questions posed to the court included whether SCC owed BC accommodation under Section 20 CA89, whether SCC’s actions amounted to providing such accommodation, and the legal obligations of SCC as a result.

The court’s analytical framework drew heavily on the structured questions laid out in the case of R (G) v Southwark LBC [2009] 1 WLR 1299 by Lady Hale. The application of CA89 Section 20(1) required determining if BC was a child in need, whether he was within the local authority’s area, if he appeared to require accommodation, and if the need arose as a result of specific conditions such as the person who had been caring for him being prevented from providing suitable accommodation or care.

Significant reference was also made to other caselaw such as R (G) v Barnet LBC, R (M) v Hammersmith and Fulham, and Southwark LBC v D, establishing principles relating to the interpretation of “suitable accommodation,” addressing children’s welfare in care, and evaluating local authorities’ role in private accommodation arrangements.

The judgment emphasized that the concept of “suitable accommodation” implies an accommodation that addresses the child’s ongoing needs, as held in R (KI) v LB Brent [2018] EWHC 1068 and that the duty to provide accommodation must be immediate and unqualified per R (JL) v Islington LBC [2009] EWHC 458 (Admin).


The court ruled that by 18 September 2019, SCC owed BC a duty under section 20 CA89 to provide him with accommodation. Furthermore, arrangements made by SCC for BC to stay with his friend’s mother from 17 October 2019 constituted accommodation provided pursuant to section 20 CA89. As a result, BC had acquired the status of “a person qualifying for advice and assistance” under section 24 CA89.

The determination that BC was a child in need by 18 September 2019 was based on the context of his circumstance which included unstable accommodation and parental reluctance to provide financial support. The judgment found SCC had taken a major role in the accommodation provided by K’s mother under section 22(1)(b) CA89 on and after 17 October 2019.


The judgment in BC v Surrey County Council confirms the responsibilities of local authorities under the Children Act 1989, emphasizing the need for prompt and appropriate accommodation for children in need. The case solidifies legal principles relating to the duty of care by local authorities to provide suitable accommodation and the continuous nature of this duty, which extends beyond the age of 18 for those who qualify for advice and assistance. It highlights the court’s approach in assessing the involvement of a local authority in accommodation arrangements, even when its initial role may seem passive.