Council criticised by ombudsman over delays to rehousing homeless family with access needs

The council agreed the family’s temporary accommodation property was unsuitable for them over a year ago but has yet to provide an alternative, reports Grace Howarth, Local Democracy Reporter

A family who has lived over a year in “unsuitable temporary accommodation” will receive £500 compensation from Enfield Council after the only alternative it could offer was in Hertfordshire.

The family, consisting of a mother – referred to in an ombudsman report anonymously as ‘Miss B’ – and her three children, declared themselves homeless in 2020 and were placed in temporary accommodation. 

Due to one of Miss B’s sons having additional needs, in November 2022 an occupational therapist was approached and found the home needed adapting, particularly the bathroom. 

However, the landlord refused to allow any installations to be put in, so Miss B requested the council review the suitability of her property, which it did in February 2023 and concluded it wasn’t suitable. 

But the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found the family was still waiting for an offer and the council was unable to “provide anything” due to the lack of adapted larger properties in the area. 

Miss B needed a ground-floor, three bedroom property, with a level-access shower or walk-in bath or with the potential to adapt. While the family waited, the council provided social care support for six months to help Miss B bathe her son. 

In August 2023, after waiting six months, Miss B made a formal complaint through the council’s complaint’s procedure and in September the council responded, apologising for the failure to find a suitable property. Miss B then escalated her complaint to stage two. 

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In the watchdog’s report the council stated there was a “national shortage of properties” particularly for “larger and adapted accommodation” and it had changed its placement policy to allow the provision of accommodation “across the country”  to deal with the problem. 

In October the council said the only bungalow available that week was in Hertfordshire. A few adapted three-bedroom houses had come up, but they had stairs. 

The report confirmed Miss B, who was on the housing register, was able to bid for social housing, however the average waiting time for the property she needed was “more than 15 years”. 

In October the council extended its social care provision for another six months.

The local ombudsman found the council to be at fault for failing to find suitable alternative accommodation starting from February 2023 and told the local authority to discuss alternative properties with Miss B,  including properties with stairs, ensuring they had a bath or shower on the ground floor and a room that could be converted into a bedroom. 

Along with the payment of £500, the ombudsman told the council if an offer of suitable alternative accommodation was not made within three months of their decision, the council would have to pay Miss B a further £300. 

Enfield Council was approached for comment.

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