Sunday, 21 September 2014

Homelessness applicants denied right to appeal

The local government watchdog has criticised a council for denying people the chance to appeal against decisions not to house them.

The Local Government Ombudsman said Bristol Council did not issue a written decision to a woman who applied to the council as homeless. It did offer her advice on renting privately, but failed in its legal duty to issue a written decision letter.

The ombudsman said although the issue had come to light as the result of a single complaint, it believes it is part of a wider problem in the city, and is unlikely to be an isolated case. The lack of a written letter means applicants cannot appeal against a decision.

Local Government Ombudsman Dr Jane Martin said: ‘By failing to meet its legal duty to provide homeless people with a written decision, not only is the council leaving people in limbo wondering whether or not they will be housed, but it also denied them the opportunity to appeal that decision.

‘I recognise that Bristol City Council has chosen to focus its resources to prioritise higher risk homelessness applications, however, it is necessary to issue a report because more people are being affected by the council’s inaction.’

The council has agreed to apologise to the woman and issue her with a decision letter. It is also paying her £200 compensation, and carrying out a review of its homelessness procedures.

Readers' comments (5)

  • Melvin Bone

    If you make a decision you really need to tell the person involved.

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  • Evidently the council though differently and were corrected

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  • "The ombudsman said although the issue had come to light as the result of a single complaint, it believes it is part of a wider problem in the city"

    Wider problem in the country more like! Not many people are aware of their rights when making a homeless application and are fobbed off by many LA's under the guise of conducting housing options assessments. Think it's called gatekeeping? To be fair to LA's though, many are under resourced and under pressure by their managers

    Had the complaint not been made to the LGO then this would not have come to light. LA's should have posters up in offices informing applicants of their rights and the process involved.

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  • But surely every council is ALWAYS right , even when its wrong ! and it is a VERY RARE CASE INDEED where a Council is PROVEN to be acting incorrectly ( hence the story ) - almost a form of encouragement for them to continuing to ignore peoples rights and take the easy route instead with say only a 1% chance of being held to account, another Conservative cut ?

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  • I agree @steveking. Last year I complained about my council in a straightforward case where they were applying the law wrongly to limit backdating of CT discounts (another national problem). First the ombudsman told me they wouldn't consider it, and then they went and issued a letter in favour of the council. I lost my faith in their impartiality at that point.

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