Fresource Friday: letter quashing homelessness decision

28.07.2017

A letter to use when a homeless applicant has requested that you review a decision that was clearly deficient and you wish the decision to be quashed and made again.

A photograph of the word 'cancel' being erased

I undertake reviews for local authority homelessness teams.

There are usually two possible outcomes when a homeless applicant asks a council to review a decision taken on their case that they're not happy with. The council can uphold or overturn the original decision.

However, it can sometimes be immediately apparent as a reviewing officer when you read the case records that the original decision - or the way in which it was made - was wholly unsatisfactory. For example, the decision-maker may have applied the wrong legal test. Or perhaps they failed to make inquiries into something that was central to whether the applicant should be owed a homelessness duty.

Those of you who request or carry out reviews will know that a special procedure applies when a deficiency or irregularity is identified. Under Regulation 8(2) of the Review Procedure Regulations the applicant must be sent a 'minded to' letter (reg.5(2) in the equivalent Welsh regulations). They must also be notified of the reasons why the council considers that the original decision was deficient or irregular, and offered the opportunity to make written and oral and submissions. These provisions are an important safeguard for applicants.

A Third Way

However, I'm often struck that some councils don't use a third option as much as they might. Namely treating the original decision as if it was never made and passing it back to a homelessness officer to make again.

There are often advantages for councils in quashing a decision where it's immediately apparent that a decision hasn't been taken properly. For example it may help the original decision-maker learn from their mistake and avoid it in future (although it might be judged more appropriate for the case to be passed to another member of staff). It can also prevent senior officers being burdened with unnecessary reviews.

Treating the decision as if it was never made requires restoring to the applicant any benefits that they've lost (or are due to lose) by virtue of the deficient decision. For example you will want to confirm that any interim accommodation that was being provided pending the decision will continue (or be reinstated) and that they retain the right to request a review if the fresh decision goes against them.

And if you're considering contracting out the review service (or just getting short term help from a review service provider) you'll want to make sure that the contractor's fees provide a reduced rate for any decisions that are passed back or immediately conceded following an initial examination of the case records.

You can download the 'quashing' letter here (or here if you're in Wales). It's free to download for a limited period.

To access the letter you'll need to have created an account using a council or social landlord email address. Guidance on becoming an approved registered user is available if you need it in the FAQs section.

If you're interested you can also refer to the information about my s.202 homelessness review service and training on conducting reviews.

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