Today, at Manchester Civil Justice Centre, Judge Main QC, ruled that a Salford City Council review of housing for a man with "multiple dysfunctions" – physical and mental - was "seriously flawed" and "serially failed".
Tahira Chakotai, or TJ, has been living on the 14th floor of Canon Hussey Court on the Islington Estate in a flat that the judge noted was "entirely unsuitable". Despite TJ using a wheelchair and sticks for mobility, he was - and is - left in a block where the lift "had a higher than average incidence of breakdown" and where he had "little capacity to negotiate any stairs".
The Salford Star has covered TJ's plight before (see here) but he has had to take Salford Council to court in order for something to be done. In May 2016, given his predicament, he presented to the Council as homeless, seeking to be re-housed under the Homelessness Act 2002, as it was unreasonable to expect him to occupy a 'wholly unsuitable' property.
But the Council concluded that it was reasonable and continually refused to reverse the decision. So TJ began a judicial review to "quosh" it.
Today, the judge agreed that the decision "must be quoshed" – and, in doing so, his final verdict on Salford Council was absolutely damning.
TJ, the judge stated, "labours under a number of significant medical, physical and psychological ailments" which "is not disputed". He listed a few of them which include epilepsy, Asperger's Syndrome, chronic mechanical back pain due to a
degenerative back condition, chronic bilateral hip and knee pain and severe motor co-ordination difficulties. These are protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 and the Council thus had an 'equality duty'.
Sarah Clayton, Salford Council's Head of Housing Strategy and Enabling, who carried out the review was slammed by the judge... "...save for a passing reference to the 'equality duty' in her letter dated 29 November 2016, the fact and effects of the Appellant's [TJ's] protected characteristics – or the effects of his multiple dysfunctions, one on the other, seen through the prism of his disability, is absent.
"Specifically, there is no discussion on the likely compounding and synergistic effects of the Appellant's overlaid protected characteristics nor any attempt to view these matters from the perspective of his disablement" he added "This can only be viewed as a significant vitiating factor. In my judgment, Ms Clayton's review does not come close to satisfying the requisite legal test in applying the 'equality duty'."
Given the state of the lifts and TJ's mobility problems, plus fear of falls and fits, the judge ruled that he "very reasonably might feel significantly anxious"...
And... "Adding into that, the compounding effects of Asberger's Syndrome and his
overlaying depression, with his worries about racist or homophobic taunts from
his neighbours – it is entirely easy to understand why he would harbour real
anxiety and fear in occupying such accommodation and feel very reluctant to leave
And... "If, added to the foregoing, one then adds in the Appellant's chronic pain and his deteriorating physical function, the resulting package of dysfunction, given the nature of the 'equality duty', suggested very strongly, it was reasonable, viewed objectively, to regard the Appellant's current accommodation as entirely unsuitable...
"Yet" the judge added "the approach of Ms Clayton was to take each of the relevant factual questions, address them serially and individually– downplay their significance, then fall back on the high threshold for a finding of 'homelessness' - in a sentence, rejecting any counteracting effects.
"Such an approach, in my judgment was quite inadequate" he concluded "There was an absolute need for Ms Clayton to specifically consider, from the Appellant's perspective, as an Asperger's sufferer, how he was able to cope with the level of his adversity, given all his difficulties on the facts presented. On all these issues, Ms Clayton's assessment serially failed...
"In my judgment, the Respondent's [Salford Council's] final review was seriously flawed" he added "It must be quoshed..."
Now Salford City Council has 56 days in which to review its decision and report back to the court.
After the case, barrister Chetna Parmar of Cobden House Chambers, instructed by Stephensons Solicitors, told the Salford Star "I believe that the judge gave the right decision in this matter and it's one that has been long overdue, and one that the Council should have come to when they made their initial decision."
TJ added: "I'm happy that the judge has given the decision back to Salford Council to make a new assessment based on his opinions and his judgement. I don't believe that any adult with my disabilities should have to go through this procedure at tax payers' expense, to actually come out with the obvious answer that the properties aren't suitable. I think it's disgusting that they've kept a mentally and physically disabled adult in a property that is unsuitable."
Costs were awarded to TJ's legal team, which, the Salford Star understands, will probably cost more than it would have cost to move him into a suitable property...
See also previous Salford Star article: Disabled Person Living Hell in Salix Homes Flat - click here