But today’s review is firmly for the specialist and in particular homelessness caseworkers and reviewers. Many of whom Tessa informs me read this blog.
I have done hundreds of homelessness reviews and always used 2 books. Jordan’s Housing Allocations and Homelessness by Luba and Davies and this one.
I have always had a preference for the Arden book because it leans so heavily on case law and that for me is the most interesting aspects of any law, where the rules of the game rub up against people’s weird and complex lives.
The Eligibility problem
Any homelessness reviewer or caseworker will tell you that the most difficult part of decision-making is often ‘Eligibility’, which is where the labyrinth of immigration law meets up with insane complexity of housing law and increasingly human rights legislation, whilst often not even speaking the same language.
Even Home Office letters and documents often contradict each other, prompting many an office argument about whether or not “Discretionary leave”, with a capital ‘D’ has the same legal import as “discretionary leave” with a small ‘d’ – in other words, discretion in an ordinary sense.
That’s how mad eligibility investigations can get.
A flavour of the madness
So, to test drive the book – the chapter on ‘Immigration’ was where I went first, a chapter of 71 pages on one legal concept.
To give the casual ready a flavour of the kinds of mind-bending hoops a homelessness officer has to jump through I quote directly from Homelessness & Allocations on the subject of just one tiny aspect of family members of EEA nationals:-
“In Singh and Others v. Minister for Justice and Equality and Immigration Council of Ireland (2016) the ECJ held that a third country national divorced from an EU citizen, whose marriage had lasted for at least 3 years before the commencement of divorce proceedings, including at least one year in the host member state, cannot retain a right of residence in that member state, where the commencement of the divorce proceedings is preceded by the departure from that member state of the spouse who is the EU citizen.”
So now you know. Does it make you feel any better?
These are the kinds of shenanigans that homelessness officers have to keep on top of and this is only one tiny element. It’s no wonder decisions get delayed for more than the requisite 33 days and are subject to judicial reviews so often, simply because of the head-scratching difficulty of the bloody subject.
In all honesty I don’t find the chapter in this book any more illuminating than in other books on homelessness and I don’t think that is the fault of the authors, just the fault of the raft of legislation on Immigration and homelessness, where a person can be eligible for some public assistance but not all.
I went next to the chapter on intentional homelessness, simply because I always find that the most interesting of the 5 homelessness tests, purely because it deals with human behaviour – and the book doesn’t let me down in putting real cases to the forefront.
A word on case law and homelessness. I commonly hear it expressed in homelessness units that officers shouldn’t get too caught up in case law and to leave that fancy stuff to barristers.
I have two objections to that idea.
- Firstly how boring would work be if our heads were only full of section 6, paragraph 4, subsection (d)?
- Secondly, homelessness, perhaps more than other branches of housing law is about people and the way they conduct their lives. You cant squash the complexity of a person’s life into a subsection. You need stories and points of view.
That is again why I like ‘Homelessness and Allocations’, because the text is peppered with such stories. They aren’t just buried in the footnotes but are part of the general writing which is something I really like.
Case law and a cuppa
Sad as I am I actually read them over a cup of tea, such as the bizarre case of Regina v. Southwark LBC ex p B, in which the council decided that B was not homeless because he had been released early from prison on an electronic tag and was therefore, technically still accommodated in prison.
Completely bonkers of course but good for a chuckle over a Hob Nob.
Professional diligence forced me to look at the section on allocations. It’s not something I’m drawn to and have never gotten involved in the work but I was interested to see that a large part of the section concerns itself with how to challenge not only a person’s place on the register but also the legality of a scheme itself.
So, on the one hand, the book can be used to assist someone working in allocations but also for advocates challenging a point, which is not something I was aware the book did until now and an extra thumbs up for that.
A handy appendix
The entire Homelessness Code of Guidance is also in the appendix which is rather handy, as well as a variety of statutory instruments that in a busy office always has people wracking their brains saying to desk sharers “What’s that bloody thing about transitional arrangements under the Localism Act”?
It’s difficult to Google if you can’t remember what its called – but it’s all in Homelessness and Allocations, so you don’t have to pester busy colleagues.
What about the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017?
Of crucial importance to the 10th edition is of course the looming Homelessness Reduction Act 2017. Non specialist readers may be interested to know that the HRA forms the biggest shake up to homelessness services since 1977. A version has been operating in Wales for a couple of years and is about to be the norm in England come 2018.
What Homelessness and Allocations has chosen to do is to spread the new bits throughout the book where they relate to a change of use, as opposed to having a separate chapter on the HRA.
This is a good choice because the HRA adds to and amends existing legislation in the main as opposed to being a standalone legislation as such.
All in all another excellent book in the LAG canon and if like me you prefer your dry, dusty legislation interspersed with human interest stories, go for it.
You can get it on Amazon for a mere £65 or save £3.25 by getting the Kindle version.