National Ombudsmen
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Woman left in unsuitable temporary accommodation for too long by London council

Council delays left a woman fleeing domestic violence with her autistic child in unsuitable bed and breakfast accommodation for nearly two years, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.

The Ombudsman investigated the complaint about the London Borough of Lambeth, finding it delayed allocating a case worker, took too long to decide her homeless application and failed to do an accommodation review, despite supporting medical evidence.

Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, Michael King said: 

“The statutory code states councils should aim to make homelessness decisions within 33 days.  While this is only an aim, Lambeth took nearly a year to decide on this woman’s case. During this time she was unable to request a review of her accommodation as the council had not formally accepted responsibility for her.

“For much of that time the woman was without even an allocated case worker. While I appreciate the caseloads councils – particularly in London – are under, people should not be left to fall through the cracks as this woman has done.”

The woman approached Lambeth for help in June 2015. She was placed in interim accommodation in the Croydon area while Lambeth began its enquiries into her application.

For the next 10 months, and despite warnings from health visitors, another London borough and the woman’s solicitors that the accommodation was unsuitable for the child, Lambeth delayed dealing with her application.

It was not until April 2016 that Lambeth accepted its duty to the woman. By September that year she was still living in the same accommodation.

The woman finally signed a tenancy for appropriate accommodation in March 2017.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s role is to remedy injustice and share learning from investigations to improve local public, and adult social care, services.

In this case, the council has agreed to pay the woman £3,000 for the delay in securing appropriate accommodation and for her distress and time and trouble.

The Ombudsman has also recommended the council pay the woman an additional £1,700 as a contribution towards the storage costs she incurred before moving to appropriate accommodation.

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