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Hackney welcomes High Court ruling on section 17 assessments

13 May 2013

In MN and KN v London Borough of Hackney, Mr Justice Leggatt held, obiter, that the case of KA was wrongly decided. Dismissing a challenge to a section 17 assessment, the judge held that social workers had been entitled to find that an overstaying family who had failed to provide information about their whereabouts for the previous decade were not destitute.

The judge found that an authority did not have power to provide section 17 support unless and until they were satisfied that a family were destitute, and that such decisions could only be challenged on grounds of irrationality or failure to carry out a proper investigation.

This will provide comfort to social workers struggling to assess families who are reluctant to provide background information. The judgment sets out a two stage approach to human rights assessments that social workers will find useful. Obiter, the judge held that the recent case of KA had been wrongly decided. Local authorities will hope that the Court of Appeal will share that view.

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