'Honour killing' girl applied to council for housing
Shafilea Ahmed, the teenager whose parents were found guilty of her murder last week, had applied to her local council for housing.
The 17-year-old who was killed in her family home made a homelessness application to Warrington Council in 2003, the year she disappeared, and was housed in emergency hotel accommodation.
She returned to her parents’ house four days later after a meeting at her school with teachers, social workers and her parents. Warrington Council’s housing department placed her in the emergency accommodation but did not attent that meeting, after which she decided to return to the family home.
The local authority says since this case and two High Court rulings calling for social services to take a greater part in assessing homeless 16 and 17 year olds any young person this age presenting as homeless would be jointly assessed by the housing team and social services. Shafilea was 16 when she approached the council’s housing department and she was not assessed by a social worker.
‘These days a similar case will be treated differently, young people now are regarded as children in need until the age of 18,’ a Warrington Council spokesperson told Inside Housing.
Edwina Harrison, independent chair of the Warrington safeguarding children board, said: ‘So much has changed here in Warrington during the last nine years since Shafilea’s murder.
‘Locally, the police, NHS and borough council work more closely together, sharing knowledge, strategies and training.
‘And if a 16-year-old presented themselves to the council’s housing team as homeless, a joint assessment would be carried out with a social worker present now.’
Judge Roderick Evans found Shafilea’s parents Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed guilty of murdering their 17-old daughter and sentenced them to a minimum term of 25 years in prison each last week.
There was tension between the teenager and her parents over what they perceived as her ‘westernised attitude’ and her fears that they wanted to force her into an arranged marriage in Pakistan.
She went missing in September 2003 and her remains were found by the banks of a river in Cumbria in February 2004.
Inside Housing published research in 2011 showing that social services were still not assessing homeless 16 and 17 year olds as directed by Baroness Hale in her High Court rulings.
In February 2008, she ruled that Hammersmith & Fulham Council should have provided social services to a 16-year-old girl rather than house her in a string of hotels and hostels. In May 2009, Baroness Hale warned Southwark Council to stop social workers ‘passing the buck’ to housing colleagues.