National Ombudsmen
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Homeless family let down by Newham Council

A homeless family with two young children had to spend a night in a car because the London Borough of Newham wrongly refused them temporary accommodation.

In her report, issued recently, Local Government Ombudsman, Dr Jane Martin finds that, even when the Council confirmed the family’s homelessness, there was a delay of nearly seven weeks in dealing with the case. She says: “The family was in acute housing need; in my view they were let down by the Council”.

The Ombudsman says: “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.” This is one of the crucial points emphasised in the Ombudsman’s recent focus report Homelessness: how councils can ensure justice for homeless people.

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