12:31PM, Friday 19 February 2021
The council caused ‘injustice’ to a homeless mother of two after placing her in ‘unsuitable’ accommodation outside the Royal Borough, a watchdog has found.
The Ombudsman, which investigates complaints about maladministration and service failure, has ordered the Royal Borough to apologise and pay £1,750 to a woman, known as Miss Y, for causing her ‘avoidable distress, time, and trouble’.
The council placed Ms Y and her two young children in temporary accommodation outside the area in May 2019 after approaching the local authority with a homeless application.
However, Ms Y complained to the council about the standard and location of the one-bedroom property she was placed in – as she spends three hours a day driving to work and taking her children to and from school, incurring more petrol costs as the home was outside the borough.
She asked the council if she could move back into Maidenhead a few times and when they would finish their assessment of her homeless application – but received no response.
After months of no communications from the council, they finally responded apologising for the delay for determining her application – pinning it down to staff shortages.
Ms Y demanded an answer as to why she has been placed in temporary accommodation outside the borough for seven months.
The council responded saying they didn’t have any available properties in Maidenhead.
In the Ombudsman’s findings, they found no evidence of the council completing a ‘suitability assessment’ for Ms Y or that they considered the location of her workplace and children’s schools before offering her the out-of-borough accommodation.
The Ombudsman found the council at fault for taking nearly six months to complete its assessment of Ms Y’s homeless application.
They also found the council at fault for ignoring Ms Y’s emails where she requested to move back to Maidenhead.
In their report, the Ombudsman state: “The council’s faults have caused Miss Y injustice.
“She and her children had to stay in accommodation outside the borough with all the difficulties, additional travelling time and expenses this caused, for longer than they should have done.
“In addition, Miss Y had the avoidable time and trouble of chasing the progress of her homelessness application.”
A council spokesperson said: “Significant improvements have been made to the service provided by the housing service since Miss Y’s initial complaint to the ombudsman and the council remains committed to continually improving the service it provides to residents of the Royal Borough.
“Despite the immense pressure COVID-19 has put on the housing service over the last year, the council has been successful in driving up the number of in-borough temporary accommodation units and will continue to focus on this area.
“We fully appreciate the disruption and emotional impact that can be caused by out-of-borough placements and are determined to ensure more of our residents can be placed locally.”
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