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In R(M) v Slough BC [2008] UKHL 52 the House of Lords considered who local authorities are obliged to provide residential accommodation for under section 21 of the National Assistance Act 1948.

M was an asylum seeker who was HIV positive who required medication, regular medical checks and a fridge in which to keep his medication. He had no accommodation. The House of Lords held that he was not a person “in need of care and attention”. A need for accommodation, for the means of subsistence and for medical care, was not a need for care and attention. To be in need of care and attention a person must need someone to look after him, doing something for him which he cannot or should not be expected to do for himself. A need for such care and attention must exist before a local social services authority is obliged to provide him with residential accommodation.

The House of Lords accordingly disapproved passages in a decision of the Court of Appeal in ex p M on which persons subject to immigration control have relied to obtain accommodation from local authorities since it was decided in 1996.

The decision is also of significance in identifying the respective responsibilities of the NHS, local social services authorities and local housing authorities.

John Howell QC represented Slough Borough Council; David Pannick QC represented M.

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