Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Home Office criticised for giving wheelchair user accommodation with steps

High court judge laments ‘lack of clarity’ in case of man who has suffered long delays in being allocated safe accommodation.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Home Office criticised for giving wheelchair user accommodation with steps” was written by Diane Taylor, for theguardian.com on Friday 4th May 2018 15.02 UTC

A high court judge has criticised the home secretary, Sajid Javid, for failing to provide safe and suitable accommodation for a vulnerable disabled man after his release from detention.

The 44-year-old man, who uses a wheelchair following a stroke and is legally defined as lacking mental capacity, could not get into accommodation provided by the Home Office on Wednesday night because it had steps and nobody answered the door.

The confused man was forced to wait in the street. Later, he was driven around London for part of the night by the taxi driver who brought him to the address after his release from detention. He was placed in a hostel as a temporary measure.

The disabled man was initially supposed to be released from detention six weeks ago but the Home Office continued to detain him as they were unable to identify suitable, wheelchair-accessible accommodation.

The criticism from circuit judge Karen Jane Walden-Smith, sitting as a high court judge, is likely to be the first judicial rebuke received byJavid, who only became home secretary on Monday following Amber Rudd’s resignation.

The Official Solicitor is involved with the case because the man lacks mental capacity. The disabled man is Jamaican and has been in the UK for 17 years. He was granted leave to remain before serving two years and three months in prison. The nature of his convictions were not disclosed in court.

Following his release, the Home Office opened deportation proceedings against the man. A psychiatric assessment found that he lacked mental capacity and had PTSD and a mixed anxiety and depressive disorder.

He had been held in detention since last July, although the Home Office accepted that he was an “adult at risk”. Following a judicial review launched by the man’s solicitors, the Home Office authorised his release from detention on 21March.

However, he was not physically released from detention until the evening of 2 May, the day before a court hearing in the case. On arrival at his allocated accommodation that night, he discovered steps leading to the front door, which was not opened by the occupants.

Shortly before 10pm the man called his solicitor using the taxi driver’s phone, who advised that he should be returned to detention so that alternative accommodation could be arranged. The taxi driver said he had no authorisation to do this. The disabled man complained of back pain as a result of the journey and waiting around, and requested an ambulance be called. He also became agitated and threatened to break the taxi’s windows.

The judge criticised the “lack of clarity about what was happening”. She said that alternative accommodation was found but the man said it was not wheelchair-accessible, so he was taken to a hostel in south London for newly arrived asylum seekers, where he remains. The Home Office has not yet found suitable permanent alternative accommodation that has sufficient disabled access.

Walden-Smith said: “Given the history of this matter … and the claimant not being released until the evening before the [court] hearing, that indicates to me that it’s necessary in these circumstances that an order is made by the court to ensure compliance by the secretary of state with his obligations to the client.”

She ruled that the new accommodation must be wheelchair-accessible and give the man easy access to a kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. She said if the Home Office failed to comply, the man could bring the matter back to court.

“The [Home Office] must ensure the claimant is accommodated in safe and suitable accommodation at all times,” she said, adding that if the man’s solicitors, Duncan Lewis, not persisted this case would not have come to court.

“The secretary of state has acted very much last minute, at the last hour,” she said.

The Home Office has been approached for comment.

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