Judge: Kay, Hughes and Lewison LJJ
Citation:  EWCA Civ 84
Summary: We note this case for essentially the same reason as the preceding case, by way of indication of the circumstances under which bodies providing accommodation to service users are able to challenge public law decisions affecting those service users.
This case concerned an appeal from the Upper Tribunal in which the central issue was whether Regulation 3 of the Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2001 (SI 2001 No. 1002) exhaustively sets out who are “persons affected” by a decision of a local authority with responsibility for administering housing benefit and are thus entitled to bring an appeal against a housing benefits decision.
Salisbury Independent Living (‘SIL’) was a provider of supported living accommodation. Wirral MBC (‘WMBC’) made a number of decisions which affected the quantum of housing benefit awarded to various of SIL’s residents. SIL sought to challenge those decisions by bringing proceedings in the First Tier Tribunal on behalf of the residents who were affected. They had no express or apparent authority to do so.
The Upper Tribunal held that SIL was entitled to bring proceeding challenging the housing benefit decisions in their own right as they were a “person affected” within the meaning of regulation 3.
The Court of Appeal allowed WMBC’s appeal. Hughes LJ, with whom Kay and Lewison LJJ agreed, held that the ordinary meaning of the legislation was that the Act, in providing a right of appeal to “persons affected”, anticipates that the term would be defined in the Regulations. Regulation 3 should be construed as an exhaustive list of who can appeal against a local authority’s determination and in what circumstances. Accordingly, SIL had no independent right of appeal.
Comment: The decision brings clarity as to who will be able to bring an appeal against housing benefit decisions. It is also interesting in so far as the Court of Appeal rejected the reasoning of the Upper Tribunal which had focused on the injustice to SIL if no independent right of appeal were found to exist. Although Supported Living providers may encounter practical difficulties in persuading resident to appeal unfavourable decisions, they will require authority from the individual residents to pursue challenges against such decisions on their behalf.