Another week, and yet another very critical judgement of Croydon Council passed down from the Local Government Ombudsman.
An LGO report has been made public which criticises Croydon Council for failing to take into account a man’s life-threatening health conditions – despite receiving letters from his medical specialists – when it decided the type of homes he could apply for.
The mounting number of complaints reaching the Ombudsman – after often vulnerable members of the public have gone through an exhausting process dealing with Croydon’s own officials – is hardly a ringing endorsement of the council’s management under £200,000 per year CEO Jo Negrini.
Last week, we reported how the LGO’s annual report found another case in which the council’s off-hand attitude with a vulnerable young man had caused him “extreme distress”. The LGO report for 2017-2018 also referred to a case in which the council was ordered to pay nearly £5,000 in compensation to the family of a young woman with Down’s, after Croydon was found to have failed in its duties.
The findings of this new case investigated by the LGO into Croydon’s conduct falls into the 2018-2019 period, and so was not included in the latest annual report.
The case involved a man who has epilepsy, agoraphobia and anxiety. He had asked the council to consider him for accommodation with two bedrooms, so he could have carers stay with him, but the council decided he was adequately housed and told the man he does not meet the level needed to be considered under “health-related criteria”.
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s investigation’s criticisms will seem similar to those raised over previous mishandled cases in Croydon.
The Ombudsman has ruled that the council took too long to carry out a review of the man’s situation. It also found the council at fault for reaching its decision not to award the man medical priority based on advice from an advisor who had not examined or even spoken to the man.
“Councils can take into account advice from independent medical advisers when reviewing people’s housing applications, but the final decision must be down to the council itself,” said Michael King, the Ombudsman.
“It is difficult to see how Croydon Council could base its review decision on paperwork provided by someone who had neither examined or even spoken to the man, without considering evidence provided by the man’s medical specialists.
“I am pleased the council has accepted the report and its findings. It has confirmed its approach to considering medical evidence is now in line with its own policy and established case law.
“I hope these changes will mean housing decisions will be taken in a more transparent and accurate way in future.”
The man, who currently lives in a one-bedroomed ground floor property, told the council he needed to move due to noise and antisocial behaviour having a significant effect on his epilepsy.
He provided supporting evidence from both his consultant neurologist, who said his condition had deteriorated and the frequency of his seizures was “life threatening”, and his GP, who said his epilepsy was worsened by noisy situations.
The council’s independent housing medical adviser said the man had epilepsy, but no evidence of health-related housing needs. Based on this, the council told the man he does not meet the minimum threshold to be included on its register under the “health-related” criteria.
It did not consider the evidence provided by the man’s consultant and GP and took 33 weeks to do this review, despite its own policy stating it should only take eight weeks.
The council has agreed to carry out a fresh review of its decision about the man’s medical priority. If it decides to award the man medical priority, the Ombudsman has said that they should backdate this to May 2017.
The council has also agreed to pay the man £250 for the distress caused by the delay and for his time and trouble in making the complaint.
There is no reference to the Ombudsman’s findings in this case or to this detailed report (click here to download it as a pdf) to be found anywhere on the council’s own website. Odd that…
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