Saturday, 23 May 2015

Council pays out £2,000 for housing failure

The Local Government Ombudsman has slammed a London council for leaving a family in cramped temporary accommodation for 18 months, then trying to evict them at short notice.

The complainant Miss Smith and her four children fled a council flat in September 2010 due to fears about local gangs and violence.

Southwark Council placed the family in temporary accommodation, but in November 2010 decided they could return to their house. Miss Smith disputed the decision, and lodged a formal complaint in January 2011.

The family was then placed in a series of temporary homes until, in March 2012, the council wrote to them saying they should return to their permanent home within nine days.

The Ombudsman upheld the family’s complaint, saying the council did not carry out a proper risk assessment or treat the family as homeless.

Ombudsman Dr Jane Martin said: ‘The council failed to take responsibility for resolving the situation, and as such the vulnerable family was caught in a black hole between different departments and agencies. To let this state of affairs drag on so long, and without any meaningful liaison with the family, is indefensible.

‘However, I welcome the improvements Southwark has made to its procedures as a result of the investigation – we want councils to be able to learn from the complaints we receive about them and translate this into higher service standards for the public.’

The council has agreed to pay the complainant £2,000, review its risk assessment decision, and write off rent arrears.

Ian Wingfield, deputy leader of Southwark Council and cabinet member for housing, said: ‘We accept the failings identified by the Local Government Ombudsman in their report and we apologise to the tenant for the distress caused in this regrettable incident. We have agreed suitable compensation and resolved the family’s housing situation.

‘Since the incident, we have significantly changed the way we deal with tenants who need to leave their homes for personal protection reasons. We monitor cases more closely and frequently, and we have strengthened the links between departments. These changes have been made in order to prevent this situation ever happening again.’

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