High Court Clarifies Responsibility for Accommodation of Asylum Seekers with Care Needs: TMX Case Highlights ECHR Breaches by Council.

Citation: [2024] EWHC 129 (Admin)
Judgment on

Introduction

In the recent High Court case of TMX, R (on the application of) v London Borough of Croydon & Anor [2024] EWHC 129 (Admin), the Court explored the interrelation between local authority obligations under the Care Act 2014 and Secretary of State obligations under s.95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 regarding the provision of accommodation to asylum seekers with care needs. The judgment provides significant commentary on the positive obligations to avoid breaching the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) Articles 3 and 8.

Key Facts

The case concerned a 50-year-old asylum seeker (‘the Claimant’) with progressive multiple sclerosis and additional health issues, leading to significant care needs including accommodation-related needs. These needs were not being effectively met by his existing accommodation in an asylum hostel provided under s.95 by the Home Office. The Primary question concerned which public authority was responsible for providing suitable accommodation: the Local Authority (the Council) under the Care Act or the Secretary of State under s.95.

Several legal principles underpin the judgment:

  1. Residual Nature of s.95: The Court reinforced that accommodation provided under s.95 IAA 1999 is intended as a ‘residual’ form of support, to prevent destitution when no other entitlement exists. Thus, accommodation under s.95 should be ignored when assessing accommodation-related care needs under the Care Act.

  2. Care Act Duties: The Council owes a duty under the Care Act to meet the needs for care and support of adults within its jurisdiction, including accommodation where required for effective care provision. Accommodation needs are not limited to ‘specialized’ types and may include general housing needs where linked to care requirements.

  3. ECHR Breaches: The case examines breaches of Article 3 (degrading treatment) and Article 8 (respect for family life) under the HRA. For Article 3, a high threshold of ‘serious suffering’ or ‘degrading treatment’ must be met. The lack of suitable accommodation for the Claimant met this threshold. For Article 8, a breach requires less severe circumstances but must include elements of ‘culpability’ or ‘lack of respect’ for private and family life by the public authority.

  4. Culpability and Foreseeability: A public authority’s breach of domestic law obligations can constitute a lack of respect for Article 8 rights if the resultant impact on private life is significant and foreseeable, even without deliberate intent.

Outcomes

The Court concluded:

  1. Care Act: The Council had wrongfully ignored the residual nature of s.95 when denying the Claimant’s accommodation-related care needs and thus breached its duties under the Care Act.

  2. Article 3: By leaving the Claimant in degrading conditions, the Council subjected him to treatment that crossed the severity threshold established under Article 3, with the Council responsible for this breach.

  3. Article 8: The Council’s actions also breached Article 8 due to substantial interferences with the Claimant’s private and family life arising from prolonged unsuitable living conditions.

The claim for judicial review was upheld and a declaration granted to reflect these breaches.

Conclusion

The TMX, R (on the application of) v London Borough of Croydon & Anor judgment clarifies the extent of local authority obligations in providing care-related accommodation to asylum seekers, with significant emphasis on the residual nature of support under s.95 IAA 1999. It establishes that public authorities can breach ECHR rights not only through active mistreatment but also through failures to act in accordance with established responsibilities, particularly within the context of social care and accommodation provision. This case reinforces the sanctity of human dignity and well-being over administrative and jurisdictional ambiguities.

Related Summaries