Council’s “disturbing” lack of records on homeless families

Croydon Council has no proper records of households on its homeless list, according to a recent response to a Freedom of Information Act.

Croydon Town Hall: has no record of how many homeless families have been placed out of the borough in the last two years

Croydon Town Hall: has no record of how many homeless families have been placed out of the borough in the last two years

The council has refused to provide figures for the number of households with school-aged children that Croydon has placed in accommodation outside the borough, either within Greater London or further afield, in the last two financial years.

The reason given by the council for the refusal to answer the FoI is that, “To provide the information you have requested each case would need to manually checked which would exceed the appropriate limit.”

This “appropriate limit” is the cost of the public servants’ time it might take to answer a request; the limit is £450.

Croydon was able to state that there were 1,223 such households with children that the council had accepted a duty to accommodate under sections 188, 190, 193 or 200 of the Housing Act 1996. But clearly, there is no readily available record within the council housing department of what has happened to these hundreds of families.

The question was put to Croydon Council by Tom Chance, the Green Party’s parliamentary candidate for Lewisham West and Penge.

Today, he told Inside Croydon: “I find it quite disturbing that Croydon Council can’t tell the public how many homeless households with children of school age have been moved out of the borough.

“Most other London boroughs have been able to answer this. It suggests they aren’t doing this kind of monitoring themselves, which is appalling given the concerns we all have about the impact of unjust benefit cuts and high housing costs.”

Under the previous Tory administration at the Town Hall, the decision was taken in 2011 to “export homelessness” from Croydon, when the borough could not cope with the surge in the numbers of people needing accommodation, and with evermore families having to endure illegally lengthy stays in often sub-standard bed and breakfast accommodation.

In 2012, it was reported that Croydon Council had 429 families living in bed and breakfasts, a seven-fold increase from the end of 2008.

At that time, Croydon was reported to have done a deal with a property developer to take on 100 homes in Manchester and Walsall, where the costs are considerably cheaper than leasing similar properties in Croydon or elsewhere in London.

Yet by December 2012, our council had been formerly criticised by the Local Government Ombudsman  over its callous treatment of the homeless and ordered “review its policy and practice in relation to consideration of homeless applications”, after a young woman and her children were left waiting for emergency accommodation 10 times longer than is required under the law.

Since Labour took control of the council at the local elections in May, they have acquired two empty office blocks, with a view to converting them into flats and to be used as temporary accommodation for homeless families, rather than having to resort to expensive and often inadequate B&Bs, or to moving families often hundreds of miles away from their families and friends. Pity that the council can’t actually say quite how many families it has scattered around the country, though.


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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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