Ombudsman calls on council to pay £27k after housing homeless family in unsuitable temporary accommodation for nine years

The London Borough of Brent has been told to pay £27,000 compensation after a report by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) found that the council had failed to provide a complainant and his family with suitable temporary accommodation since 2012.

The Ombudsman found Mr X and his family were homeless, and in 2012 Brent accepted this was not intentional and that they had a priority need.

Brent placed the family in a self-contained three-storey house but Mr Y – who at the time was a child – has a disability and could not walk.

He is now an adult but continues to need daily care and support from his parents.

In 2012 Brent’s district medical officer recommended “relocation to ‘mobility two’ accommodation and ground floor or lifted accommodation”. ‘Mobility two’ refers to properties with adaptations for people who cannot manage steps or stairs and may use a wheelchair.

By October 2019, Brent reviewed the accommodation, found it was unsuitable, apologised for the delay and offered £2,000 as a remedy.

The Ombudsman said the family were still in the unsuitable accommodation in December 2020, when they were put into Brent’s highest priority band for accommodation having been earlier in lower bands.

During the investigation a report to the allocations panel came to light which said: “The property is not suitable for the needs of the household; they have been residing in unsuitable accommodation since 2012.”

In its report the Ombudsman noted: “This internal document contradicts what the council said in its response to Mr X’s complaint. In its stage one response in May 2020, the council said: ‘Despite the DMOs initial recommendation in November 2012, I am not satisfied that Mr [X’s] accommodation was unsuitable from 2012.’”

The LGSCO found there had been injustice and that Brent’s £2,000 offer was inadequate.

This should instead be £27,000 to reflect the prolonged injustice and Brent was told it should liaise with Mr X, Mr Y, and their representatives “to agree a method of payment which does not impact on entitlement to any welfare benefits or otherwise disadvantage them”.

A Brent Council spokesperson said: “Finding suitable accommodation for this family is our number one priority. We are sorry it’s taking longer than we’d like.”

Brent had now found a suitable property in the borough that can be adapted for wheelchair use and was waiting to see if it also offers disabled parking.

The spokesperson said: “The difficulty we have had in finding this family a suitable place to live is, sadly, symptomatic of the chronic shortage of larger, adaptable properties across London.”

A prolonged period of funding cuts and rising cost of living had made finding a suitable, affordable home in Brent impossible for many families but the council had geared its own housebuilding programme towards the supply of larger, adaptable properties.

Mark Smulian

Published by MigrationUK

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