Scathing report by Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman criticises council’s handling of resident’s homeless application, reports Grace Howarth, Local Democracy Reporter
Enfield Council has been ordered to apologise and pay a resident thousands of pounds in compensation after it “failed” to move her despite the “significant risk of violence” she faced.
A report from the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman states the council’s “shortcomings” in managing the resident’s homelessness application, which left the resident – referred to anonymously as ‘Mrs B’ – “at risk of violence for longer than necessary”.
The council was ordered to pay Mrs B over £5,000 as a result, to compensate for her and her family living in “unsuitable accommodation” and for the delay in “accepting main housing duty”.
In response a council spokesperson said: “Enfield Council accepts the findings of the ombudsman and we have apologised to the resident.
“The safety, security and peace of mind of our residents is always a priority and we are sorry that we did not in this case meet the high standards expected of us.”
The report stated the council “took too long” to assess Mrs B’s housing situation when she first asked for help in February 2020. Mrs B approached the council as her family was “at significant threat of violence”, which the police verified.
The council confirmed it owed her “relief duty” in April 2020 and sent a personal housing plan (PHP), but this was not “tailored to her situation”. This caused a delay in Mrs B’s securing suitable housing.
The council offered Mrs B interim accommodation but “took a year to do so”. The report stated this and the delay in accepting the main housing duty caused “significant distress and frustration”.
The council only notified Mrs B it owed her main housing duty in March 2021. In the interim she and her family had been living in one room at a hotel.
Mrs B moved to a private rented property in April 2021, but up to this point had waited for news and had chased the council for updates. The report stated it was “likely that the council’s delays meant she stayed in that unsuitable property longer than she should have”.
The private property the family moved to was considered “not big enough” but Mrs B said it as “the only realistic option”. The report stated Mrs B asked the council to continue to look for three-bed properties.
In March 2022 her landlord served her a notice that he wanted the property back, so Mrs B contacted the council again and it sent Mrs B another PHP. The report said “no significant action” was made on the case until October 2022 when the council accepted the prevention duty.
But by the time the landlord’s notice expired the landlord decided not to evict the family.
Mrs B stayed in their property until August 2023. The report stated the council should have intervened and changed her housing situation “sooner”.
The report stated the council has apologised for the “delays” in the processing of ”both her homelessness applications” and has “taken steps to improve service”.
The spokesperson said the council took complaints “very seriously” and had “improved” its processes to “avoid delays” when it came to homelessness application assessments.
They said: “We have recently reviewed our approach and publicly shared our new way of working on homelessness casework.”
The spokesperson added the council housing service had “recently agreed” a new domestic abuse policy “to protect the rights of residents to live in a safe home”.
They said: “This commitment will provide early, tailored and coordinated support to domestic abuse survivors and their children within the housing service.”