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SL (FC) v Westminster City Council

Citation: SL (FC) v Westminster City Council [2013] UKSC 27 (s21 National Assistance Act 1948)

SL, a young man, claimed asylum in the UK on grounds that he feared persecution in Iran on account of his sexual orientation. He was diagnosed with depression and post traumatic stress disorder after a suicide attempt.

The question arose whether he was in need of “care and attention” under s21(1)(a) National Assistance Act 1948 because his condition was being monitored and assessed at a weekly meeting.

The Supreme Court reviewed the relevant authorities and considered whether it was sufficient that the Council is “doing something” for him “which he cannot or should not be expected to do for himself”, namely monitoring his mental state. In answering no, the Supreme Court decided that:

“44.What is involved in providing “care and attention” must take some colour from its association with the duty to provide residential accommodation…. it cannot be confined to that species of care and attention that can only be delivered in residential accommodation of a specialised kind but the fact that accommodation must be provided for those who are deemed to need care and attention strongly indicates that something well beyond mere monitoring of an individual’s condition is required.” Further, such services as he was receiving was held to be “available otherwise than by the provision of accommodation under section 21” because “The services provided by the council were in no sense accommodation-related. They were entirely independent of his actual accommodation, however provided, or his need for it. They could have been provided in the same place and in the same way, whether or not he had accommodation of any particular type, or at all” (at 45).

In conclusion, Lord Carnwath, delivering the sole judgement, at para 48 states:

“The need has to be for care and attention which is not available otherwise than through the provision of such accommodation. As any guidance given on this point in this judgment is strictly obiter, it would be unwise to elaborate, but the care and attention obviously has to be accommodation-related. This means that it has at least to be care and attention of a sort which is normally provided in the home (whether ordinary or specialised) or will be effectively useless if the claimant has no home. So the actual result in Mani may well have been correct. The analysis may not be straightforward in every case. The matter is best left to the good judgement and common sense of the local authority and will not normally involve any issue of law requiring the intervention of the court.”