Birmingham & Black Country

'Homeless' mum takes Birmingham Council to Supreme Court

Supreme Court Image copyright PA
Image caption Five Supreme Court Justices will deliver a reserved judgement at a date to be determined

A mother who claims she was forced into homelessness by a council after spending benefits on food over rent has taken the case to the Supreme Court.

She was declared "intentionally homeless" after Birmingham council said she should have used non-housing benefits to plug a £35 shortfall between housing benefit and rent.

Two charities backing the woman's case allege this was an "unlawful" practice.

Five Justices will deliver a reserved judgement at a date to be determined.

The mother-of-four was a tenant of a house in West Bromwich, Sandwell, from November 2010 to July 2011, when her private sector tenancy was terminated due to rent arrears, the court listing states.

Case documents say she "was in receipt of benefits, including housing benefit, which did not cover her actual rent, but left her with a monthly shortfall".

She then made a homelessness application to neighbouring Birmingham City Council, but was "judged to have become homeless intentionally, because her house was affordable".

The court's online facts listing online says: "She appealed, claiming that the respondent had failed to follow the relevant guidance and had not given adequate reasons for the conclusion that there was sufficient flexibility in her income from benefits to fund the weekly shortfall in rent."

'Forced to choose'

Carla Clarke, Child Poverty Action Group's head of strategic litigation, said that "no mother should have to see her children go short of essentials in order to pay the rent".

Greg Beales, campaign director at Shelter, said: "When someone is forced to choose between rent and keeping their children fed, they cannot be viewed as 'intentionally' homeless when they choose the latter."

Birmingham City Council said it was unable to comment as the case was ongoing.

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