Friday, 06 March 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.’

Readers' comments (5)

  • I hope this council understands, it is using tax payers money for funding this situation.

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  • Alex Brown

    Sorry the victims here are the Lady and her children not the tax payer. Yes it is in some ways a waste of taxpayers money but better that than the waste of someones life if they and their children are sent into an unsafe situation by ineffective or non-existant safeguards within the council system.
    With luck the situation has been sorted and procedures developed to prevent this happening in future.

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  • This the fault of government. We need to build low-rent social housing. There is nowhere for these people to go that is affordable in London anymore.

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  • It's not the council that pays out, it is the residents and the taxpayers. And if the lady in question is a taxpayer she is paying the council fine too. Not only victim, but she is made to pay the fine for those who victimised her - this is how the great con works... the usual lessons will be learnt, to make sure it won't happen again?... Well, of course it will happen again and again if it's the victim to pay the fine of those who make her a victim... Hopefully the victim will find now a good lawyer and take actions against the individuals who should be paying her fine from their own pockets and not ours.

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  • I did not mean to infer that the lady is wasting tax payers money, I meant that the tax payers money is not being wisely used. A totally different statement.

    Housing is a serious issue, and I support my own housing association with the need to use Georgian stock to help fund the many on the list, well over 10,000. I live in one of those properties and I hope to move very soon. I also, have supported openly the need for homes, not "Affordable Homes" they are not that. When you live in an area that is expensive, it reflects on the cost of all homes. Where I live the cost is in comparison to London.

    Good Social Housing, we also need to sort the traveler sites.

    Very recently I have made comments to the Housing Inspector.

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