Supreme Court allows appeal and determines residence of young man with learning disabilities


The Supreme Court has allowed the appeal by a majority of 4-1 and determined the ordinary residence of a young man with learning disabilities ‘PH’ at the relevant time was to be Wiltshire.

PH was born in Wiltshire but was placed with foster parents in South Gloucestershire under the Children Act 1989. His parents moved to Cornwall where PH would visit them. After his 18th birthday PH was placed in a care home in Somerset. The cost of care for PH was estimated to be £80,000 per year.

The issue was which local authority was responsible for providing his support. Lord Carnwath stated that the Secretary of State’s reasons for selecting Cornwall, which started not from assessment of the duration and quality of PH’s actual residence but from an attempt to ascertain his “base” by reference to his family relationships, could not be supported. There was no suggestion that PH’s brief periods of staying with his parents at holiday times could amount to ordinary residence. He stated that although attribution of responsibility to South Gloucestershire might fit the language of the statute, it would run directly counter to the statute’s policy.

The purpose of the deeming provisions in both the 1989 and the 1948 Acts is that an authority should not be able to export its responsibility for providing accommodation by “exporting” the person who is in need of it. It followed that PH was ordinarily resident in Wiltshire.

Helen Mountfield QC, Sarah Hannett and Tamara Jaber represented South Gloucestershire Council, which succeeded in setting aside the Court of Appeal judgment against them.