Galway County Council did not breach rights of family refused emergency accommodation

A mother and her five children were unsuccessful in applying for an order quashing the decisions of Galway County Council to cease providing them emergency accommodation. Ms Justice O’Regan found that the applicants were not entitled to the reliefs sought and was satisfied that the decisions made did not breach their rights under the constitution or the European Convention on Humans.

In July 2010 and again August 2011, the applicants, a single mother and her five children, applied to Galway County Council to be placed on the housing list. In both applications, the mother indicated that she had no criminal conviction in the previous five years. They had been living in private accommodation but in October 2016 had received a notice of termination of the tenancy. In February 2017, the applicants presented as homeless seeking emergency accommodation and were accommodated for by the Council with emergency accommodation which ended on the 3 July 2017.

Galway County Council stated that the applicants were prioritised and in June 2017 had been offered transitional accommodation at “T” Co. Galway, a four bedroom dwelling – the only four bedroom dwelling available to the Council. The applicant refused the offer on the basis that a 5-day specialised placement for the youngest child with autism was not available. The Court noted that the youngest child had autism, as well as other medical and intellectual problems, which would require significant educational, development and medical supports. The Court also noted that two further children also received educational support for milder issues. The applicant mother also complained that she would have to drive approximately 100 miles per day to accommodate the children in their schools in Galway if the family were to move to T. In June 2017, the Council ceased providing emergency accommodation on the basis that they were in receipt of a reasonable offer of accommodation.

The applicants asserted that the Council failed:

  • to assess their housing needs and the educational needs of the children;
  • fettered its discretion in failing to apply s. 22 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2009, and in failing to properly construe its powers under s. 10 of the Housing Act 1988;
  • to have regard to the applicants’ rights under the constitutional and the ECHR, thereby leaving the applicants exposed to the risk of being without shelter;
  • to accommodate the youngest applicant with his specialised placement and thereby failed to protect his right to education as protected by Art. 42 of the Constitution, and thereby acted inconsistently with its own criteria for withdrawal of emergency homeless accommodation;
  • to have regard for the vulnerable status of the family.

Ms Justice O’Regan considered Meadows v Minister for Justice accepting that that constitutional and ECHR rights – such as equality before the law, personal rights, the best interest of the children, right to education, right to private and family life etc. – must be regarded during the decision making process. The Court was, however, slow to identify any new rights, citing Baker J in T.D. v the Minister for Education, “I would have the gravest doubts as to whether the courts at any stage should assume the function of declaring what are today frequently described as "socio-economic rights".

O’Regan J was satisfied that there was “ample scope” within s2 and s10 of the Housing Act 1988 for the Council to come to the decision to withdraw emergency accommodation on the basis that reasonable accommodation had been offered to the applicants. The Court stated that the reasonableness of such accommodation had taken into account the housing and other needs and the Council thereby doing the best within its resources to facilitate and balance the needs identified by the applicants to the best of their ability. Therefore, Justice O’Regan was satisfied that the applicants failed to establish that the decision breached the jurisprudence in Meadows, or breached any of the asserted rights of the applicant.

The applicants also sought to quash a previous decision of the Council to defer their housing application for one year. O’Regan J was satisfied that the Council did have regard to the vulnerability of the family and did not fail to take into account relevant factors. The Court found that the applicant had not declared some minor offences when making the application, the score that this produced under the deferral matrix was reasonable and based on ample evidence available.

Click here to read the full judgement in C & Ors v Galway County Council.





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