We contacted local councillors, our MP, basically anyone I could think of who may have been able to help. But we didn’t get anywhere until we got some legal help and judicial review was mentioned.

This was the experience of Deanna, the mother of Carla, a 9-year-old girl with severe learning disabilities, when she asked the Council to move her family to a house that would meet their needs.

Carla needed to move because of the impact of her disabilities on her daily life. For example, she needed to be supervised on the stairs, but this was impossible to do safely, particularly when she had a ‘meltdown’, because they were so narrow. She would pick up anything that was lying around even if it was unsafe for her, but there was very little storage which made it difficult to put everything away. There wasn’t enough space in the house to keep a room clear and safe just for Carla. There was a shared path across the back garden which led out on to the street if the gate was left open. This meant it was too risky to let Carla play outside unsupervised.

Deanna applied to the Council to be moved to more suitable housing. An occupational therapist (OT) carried out an assessment and agreed that rehousing was necessary. The OT also made several specific recommendations to the Council about what the house should include in order to meet the family’s needs. Deanna started applying for properties she thought met the OT’s recommendations, or could be made suitable with some adaptations, but the Council kept rejecting her applications. Some applications were rejected because they didn’t fulfil the requirements the OT had set out, but the Council had not considered whether they could be made suitable. Deanna spent five years fighting on her own but felt she was getting nowhere.

We felt like we were being penalised because we continued to badger them for help. They stopped me contacting housing at one point and all correspondence had to go through higher management.

Deanna was put in touch with the Central England Law Centre by a national charity. She told her caseworker everything that had happened. A letter was sent to the Council warning them that they faced a claim for judicial review because they weren’t taking the OT’s recommendations into account when making their decisions. This made all the difference. Within weeks the Council found a house that could be adapted to meet the family’s needs.

The process with the law centre was relatively simple once we actually found that they were able to help.