The Local Government Ombudsman has ruled against Croydon Council today in the case of a young mother and her three children who were left waiting by the borough’s housing department for 10 months. The independent body found Croydon Council responsible for “maladministration causing injustice”.
The BBC reports the horrific circumstances of how the woman required emergency housing after her family home had been subject to a break-in and she was attacked by a man with a hammer and had a knife held to her throat.
Despite recommendations from the police for the woman and her young children to be re-housed as a matter of urgency, Croydon’s housing department took 10 times as long to act as they are required under government codes.
The case, reported today by the BBC’s website, follows on from damning television reports about Croydon’s housing department failures on Newsnight and Panorama, which included the council being accused by a government minister of acting “doubly illegally” over its use of sub-standard bead and breakfast accommodation.
This did not prevent senior Croydon Conservative councillor Dudley Mead boasting at a recent council meeting that the two young mothers whose complaints about sub-standard and illegal bed and breakfast accommodation featured in the Newsnight report had now been evicted.
In the latest case, Croydon Council has issued an apology and was ordered to pay £2,500 compensation to the family.
The Ombudsman, Dr Jane Martin, said, “I am concerned at the way in which frontline staff implemented the council’s policy for the allocation of interim and temporary accommodation in this case in that I have seen no evidence that anything other than bed-and-breakfast was considered…
“I recognise that the council is a large authority and that its homeless team is under pressure. I also recognise that most people presenting to the council as homeless have families, which makes it difficult for the council to offer anything other than bed-and-breakfast accommodation.
“However, the council is subject to government guidance which clearly states that bed and breakfast accommodation is not suitable for homeless people with families except as a last resort and then only for a period not exceeding six weeks.”
Dr Martin highlighted the absolute cobblers that Croydon Council’s senior executives and councillors routinely spout when caught failing to deliver. “The council has put forward the view that [the complainant]’s circumstances were not considered to be exceptional and therefore the bed-and-breakfast accommodation was considered suitable for her needs. I am surprised by that comment,” the Ombudsman said.
“[The complainant] had experienced a violent attack on her home. Given that the attack involved a hammer and knives and resulted in her partner being hospitalised I find it difficult to understand what circumstances the council would consider to be exceptional.”
As well as ordering the council to pay (modest) compensation, the Ombudsman has also told Croydon that it must “review its policy and practice in relation to consideration of homeless applications”.
Oddly, there is no mention of this case on the Croydon Council website’s news section.
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