Wednesday, 04 May 2016

Council slammed over family that slept in car

The Local Government Ombudsman has criticised a London council which refused temporary accommodation to a young family, forcing them to sleep in a car.

The ombudsman said the family had been ‘let down’ by Newham Council by a seven-week delay in dealing with the case.

The family of four, which was not identified in the report, was confirmed as homeless by the council on 23 March 2011, but the case was not passed to the homelessness assessment team until 9 May.

They spent the night in a car on 17 March when they were refused temporary accommodation by the council after the father of the family was told by his mother that they could not remain in her house.

Dr Jane Martin, the Local Government Ombudsman, said: ‘The family was in acute housing need; in my view they were let down by the council.’

Dr Martin further recommended the council send a letter of apology to the council and £300 compensation, and that it review its policy and procedures.

She continued: ‘I am concerned that officers investigating the man’s complaints repeatedly stated in their correspondence with him that their colleagues must be satisfied a person is homeless before they agree to provide interim accommodation.

‘That demonstrates a misunderstanding of the law. The correct test is whether the council has ‘reason to believe’ a person may be homeless and in priority need.’

The Ombudsman adds: ‘This complaint has revealed unacceptably poor standards of record-keeping by officers in the prevention team. It has also drawn attention to the failure of some officers to understand the criteria for provision of interim accommodation.’

A spokesperson for Newham Council said: ‘We always strive to give our residents the best possible service but in this case we failed to do so and apologise for any distress it may have caused.

‘We have considered carefully the report of the Local Government Ombudsman and fully accept her decision. We are reviewing our home visiting policy with the intention of producing clearer written guidelines in order to minimise the chance of something like this happening again.

‘We continually look to improve what we do and feedback from residents plays a crucial role in identifying and working to address our failures as well as our successes. We take complaints very seriously and work positively with complainants if we do get things wrong.’

Readers' comments (11)

Comments are only open to subscribers of Inside Housing

Already a subscriber?

If you’re already a subscriber to Inside Housing, your subscription may not be linked to your online account. You can link your subscription from within the My Account section of the website and clicking on Link My Account.

Not yet a subscriber?

If you don't yet subscribe to Inside Housing, please visit our subscription page to view our various subscription packages.

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

sign in register

Newsletter Sign-up



  • Council slammed over homeless teenager treatment

    15 December 2015

    A homeless teenager was caused “avoidable distress” by Doncaster Council’s children’s service after they failed to “properly assess” her needs, the Local Government Ombudsman has concluded.

  • Government slammed on benefit fraud and error

    29 October 2015

    The government is lacking ambition on tackling fraud and error in the benefits system, a group of MPs has said.

  • DCLG slammed for 'extraordinary' public land failure

    16 July 2015

    MPs have slammed the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) for failing to monitor the new homes being built on public land that it had released for development.

  • 'Pay to stay' measure slammed by landlords

    8 July 2015

    George Osborne has been accused of seeking to ‘dismantle’ affordable housing after plans were confirmed to force higher earning social tenants to pay market rent to keep their homes.

  • Landlord seeking firm for cable car scheme

    6 May 2015

    A housing association will look for an entertainment operator or major company to take over its plans to build a cable car if the project passes tests in autumn.

IH Subscription