Judge orders council to review ‘irrational’ decision on housing for autistic girl

An autistic girl at risk of harming herself in her “dangerous” family home has won a High Court action for an immediate review of her living situation.

The six-year-old, who has a range of difficulties, lives in a first floor flat with her mother and older brother provided by the London Borough of Haringey.

Referred to in court as AM, she has “no sense of danger” and enjoys running and climbing, the court heard on Wednesday.

On one occasion, she got out on to a balcony and climbed on top of a table, but the possibility of putting permanent locks on the doors was ruled out as being a fire hazard.

The court heard the girl’s safety therefore depends on the “never-ceasing vigilance” of her mother, who has to constantly ensure the doors are locked and the key hidden.

She also has “very disturbed sleep”, which means her brother and mother have to share a bedroom.

The council’s social workers concluded the flat was unsuitable for the family and suggested they need ground-floor accommodation with three bedrooms.

But its housing department considered the family’s situation was “not serious or critical” enough for them to be treated as a higher priority for rehousing.

Lawyers representing the family argued at a hearing last month that the council failed in its duty to provide a safe and suitable home and said their current accommodation was “positively dangerous”.

Ordering the council to review the family’s case, Judge Karen Walden-Smith ruled the failure to deal with the risks to AM and her brother was “irrational and unlawful”.

The judge said the result was the family had “fallen between” the local authority’s children’s services and housing departments and had “no realistic prospect” of being rehoused.

She added: “For the housing authority to rely entirely on the constant, and never wavering, vigilance of the mother to ensure AM’s safety is irrational.

“This is not the ordinary vigilance expected of a parent with a young child.

“Given the difficulties AM has, her mother would be on duty day and night.”

“In my judgment, the risks from the housing situation of the claimants have not been adequately assessed or dealt with by the housing authority.

“Haringey failed to formulate a plan as to how to deal with the very real risks of AM harming herself and the very real and immediate harm to the welfare of both AM and her brother by reason of the overcrowding in the property.”

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