Father facing homelessness had ‘no right’ to ask council to house his family near faith school

Faith Matters / Sun 5th May 2024 at 08:41am

A FATHER who took Waltham Forest Council to court for not taking into account his desire to send his children to faith school when offering temporary housing has lost his case reports the Local Democracy Reporter.

Rabah Ghaoui and his family, including his two children, had been relocated more than 20 miles away from their home after facing eviction from their privately rented accommodation in March 2020.

The council had provided his family with a home in Harlow to prevent them becoming homeless, after first being approached in April 2019.

But the father-of-two said his rights were being “not being considered” as the move had not accounted for the fact his eldest child was attending a private Muslim faith school in the borough.

He did not want his children to attend a multi-faith school in Harlow and complained to the council that the home – a long way from the school and his place of work – was unsuitable.

However, in a strongly-worded letter to Rabah, a council officer asserted that “choosing to educate your children in a privately run faith school motivated by dislike of your children mixing with other children from a diversity of faiths is not a need”.

Rabah challenged this view in the county court, arguing that his family’s rights under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights – the right to freedom of religion – had not been taken into account and said the council was wrong to not recognise the schooling issue as a “need”.

His county court bid was unsuccessful and the ruling, in favour of the council, was upheld by the Court of Appeal, with Lord Justice Peter Jackson dismissing the father’s case on 18th April this year.

He said that Rabah could expect that his choice of school would be considered by Waltham Forest, but not that the council would place “any particular weight” on his choice of school “just because that choice was motivated by faith”.

However, he also chided the council officer for the “unfortunate” tone of their letter.

He said: “There is much to be said for plain speaking in decision-making but there was no need for the officer to speculate about the appellant’s motives for choosing a particular school or to make gratuitous remarks about the reasonableness of his parenting.

“Comments of that kind may foster appeals, even if they do not actually assist appellants.”

The cabinet member for housing Ahsan Khan said the ruling set an “important precedent” for local authorities.

In a statement issued to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, he said: “We are pleased that the judges have ruled in our favour in this case. The ruling sets an important precedent for local authorities that means we do not have to prioritise faith-based schooling over other important factors we consider when helping those who come to us at risk of becoming homeless.

“Our preference is always to keep people as close as we can to their friends, families, and support networks in Waltham Forest. Where this is not possible, we will work with them to find accommodation that is suitable for their needs and prevents the risk of them becoming homeless.”

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8 Comments for Father facing homelessness had ‘no right’ to ask council to house his family near faith school:

Mrs Black
2024-05-05 13:46:50

Apart from the entitled attitude of Mr Ghaoui to use his faith to try to cherry pick accommodation, I would like to know WHY he was sent to HARLOW! Why are we housing these families from outside of Harlow when we currently have 5000 people on our Council Housing waiting list and numerous 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation Harlow people living in temporary and shared accommodation. Any and ALL of our housing stock should be given to Harlow people first and foremost. Also they were in private rented accommodation and the landlord evicted them so why not move into another private accommodation. If you can afford to send a child to private schools then you can afford private accommodation.

2024-05-05 14:08:58

There are no words. Allocating social housing based on faith needs would be a dangerous slippery slope. Schools and education establishments are not the place for religion anyway, that's what the home and religious establishments are for. I believe the rules state that if you are homeless and offered accommodation you have to accept the first place you are offered or you are deemed to not be in dire need of housing. If you can pick and choose accommodation based on distance to a faith school of your choice then you are not in dire need. Definitely the correct decision by that judge

2024-05-05 14:10:21

Also of he was working and paying for a private school why were the council responsible for housing him? There's something odd about this

Innocent Bystander
2024-05-06 07:24:45

So has the funds to send his child to private school, but not to house his family without getting a lovely cheap council place?

2024-05-06 10:19:36

Can we have a response from Harlow Council please, why were they housed in Harlow ?

2024-05-06 17:52:01

I have to repeat the same points raised by others why was he housed in harlow. The people of harlow already put up with individuals being placed here who have no connection with the town but the fact that london boroughs have invested through housing associations and other groups in old offices and blocks of flats needs further investigation. Come on harlow council speak up how are you allowing non harlow residents to be given housing in the town. Time for change local people deserve local houseing and an answer from those elected to provide our services

2024-05-06 21:50:09

Harlow homes for Harlow people...

please post
2024-05-08 12:30:49

It doesn't say Harlow Council housed... So maybe Waltham Forest Council owns this house in Harlow? (and others?) Therefore it is up to them to whom they rent it out to, and has nothing to do with Harlow Council?

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