Council ordered to pay £2,800 over homeless nightmare

Ombudsman discovers Croydon has 27 families in temporary B&B accommodation for longer than the six-week legal limit

Under scrutiny: Croydon Council’s housing failures continue to draw criticism

Croydon Council’s housing department, already under critical scrutiny in the aftermath of the Regina Road scandal, has been ordered to pay a mother thousands of pounds in compensation for its failure to provide her and her son with an adequate home.

Councils have a legal duty to rehome people placed in temporary accommodation within six weeks. In this case, the mother and child were left in a small room in a B&B for nine months, in the middle of the covid crisis.

The Local Government Ombudsman passed down the ruling against Croydon Council last week, the latest in a long line of adverse findings against the local authority. Croydon Council has never published any of the Ombudsman’s reports on its own website.

It is only a few weeks since the Ombudsman ruled against Croydon after a cancer patient and her four children were ‘cooped up’ in a single room throughout the covid pandemic because council officials failed to check their own temporary accommodation policy.

Ombudsman reports never identify the victims of local authority abuse or negligence, and in this case referred to “Ms Y” and her son, “Z”.

Their reports says, “Ms Y complained the council placed her in unsuitable temporary accommodation, which was made worse by the covid-19 pandemic.

“The council was at fault.

“It was also at fault for not proactively assisting Ms Y to find accommodation between July 2020 and February 2021, and not telling her it had cancelled her housing register application when it discharged its homelessness duty in March 2021.

“It will apologise, make changes to its processes, and pay Ms Y £2,800 to remedy the unsuitable accommodation.”

According to the report, the mother and son were in “unsuitable” bed and breakfast accommodation from June 2020 to April 2021, “sharing kitchen and bathroom facilities with strangers during the covid-19 pandemic”.

It says, “The accommodation comprised a room with two single beds, and the use of a kitchen and bathroom shared with other families. The toilet was situated in the bathroom so if the bathroom was in use, they had to use the toilet in the bathroom on another floor.

“This meant unavoidable social mixing during the covid-19 pandemic. Ms Y said there were regularly other families moving in and out, so they were sharing with strangers and maintaining hygiene was difficult.”

The son, Z, “had to sit on a bed in the same room as his mother whilst schooling was online”.

As the Ombudsman points out in outlining the duties and responsibilities of the council, “Bed and breakfast accommodation can only be used for households which include a pregnant woman or dependent child when no other accommodation is available and then for no more than six weeks.”

The Ombudsman reports lays out how, in attempting to help Ms Y find more suitable accommodation, Croydon suggested a private rented home outside the borough which was many miles from her son’s school and which was unaffordable for her.

The council also claimed that it send Ms Y “regular listings of private rented properties that she could consider but that she did not engage with it”. When the Ombudsman investigated this claim by the council, they found the council had sent her two emails, “which appear to be apparently dated April and July 2021” – that is, after she had already been in the B&B for nine months.

The Ombudsman tells us that Ms Y had never been homeless before and that she did not understand how the council housing system worked, nor to what she and her son were entitled. It was only in February 2021, after she engaged the assistance of a lawyer (“Ms X”), that the council began to treat her case with greater urgency.

Trapped in misery: temporary B&Bs are often used by Croydon Council

Even then, what council officials said, and what they actually did, fell below a reasonable standard of expectation.

Para 24 of the Ombudsman’s report serves as an example: “On 3 March [2021] the council told Ms X it had identified two potential properties for Ms Y and would contact her within the next two days. Neither Ms X nor Ms Y heard from the Council until 24 March, when the Council offered Ms Y self-contained private rented accommodation, which she accepted. Ms Y moved into that accommodation on 1 April 2021.”

In mid-May, the solicitor filed a formal complaint about the treatment of her client by the council, saying that, “It felt like the council had forgotten Ms Y.”

The council responded to the complaint in July, but this was never received by the lawyer. After the lawyer contacted the council again in August 2021, she raised a Stage 2 complaint. Again, she received no response from the council. The following month she lodged the complaint with the Ombudsman.

What the Ombudsman discovered exposes multiple errors and omissions by council housing staff, who apparently even failed to distinguish between the B&B business that was housing Ms Y, and other, not-for-profit accommodation provided by housing associations or the council itself.

The Ombudsman trawled through the correspondence between the council and Ms Y. At one point, the council said that it had checked that the B&B accommodation provided was suitable. “I have seen no evidence it did so,” the Ombudsman’s report says.

“If it had checked, it may have identified the accommodation was no longer suitable, for example, because Ms Y was sharing with her son, and they had no private bathroom to change in.

“It would also have identified that Ms Y had been in B&B accommodation for more than six weeks… Having established the temporary accommodation was no longer suitable, the council should have found her alternative temporary accommodation.

“Ms Y and [Z] suffered a significant injustice as a result of the council’s failings as they remained in unsuitable accommodation for a further eight months until the council discharged its housing duty in late March 2021. The injustice was aggravated by the need to share facilities with other families, who kept on changing, during the covid-19 pandemic.”

The Ombudsman has ordered Croydon Council to “Apologise to Ms Y for its failure to provide appropriate assistance to secure accommodation for her between July 2020 and February 2021, for the unsuitable accommodation it provided between July 2020 and March 2021, for its failure to tell her it had ended her housing register application, and for its failure to respond to her complaint at Stage 2 of its complaints process.”

The council has been told to pay £2,800 “to remedy the injustice caused by eight months in unsuitable B&B accommodation”.

In addition, Croydon must, “Review its policy and process in relation to the provision of bed and breakfast accommodation to families and pregnant applicants”, to ensure its approach is in line with best practice, and provide appropriate guidance to relevant staff. They also have to provide the Ombudsman with a new “Temporary and Emergency Accommodation Strategy”, and need to report to the Ombudsman “on the progress made in increasing the supply of temporary accommodation, particularly for families who would otherwise be in B&B accommodation”.

The Ombudsman says that Croydon must also “review its complaints process”.

According to the Ombudsman, during the course of the investigation of this case, Croydon Council admitted that there were currently 27 other families who were housed in B&B accommodation for longer than the six-week legal limit.

  • Inside Croydon publishes these Ombudsman findings, together with links to the full report, because Croydon Council refuses to do so itself

From our archive: My living hell spending 18 months housed in one room in a Croydon B&B

Read more: Ombudsman orders review of Croydon’s temporary housing
Read more: Croydon shamed over ‘dangerous squalor’ in council flats
Read more: Council’s flats scandal caused by ‘complete corporate failure’

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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
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7 Responses to Council ordered to pay £2,800 over homeless nightmare

  1. Peter Underwood says:

    The attitude of Croydon Council towards homeless people and those in substandard accommodation is disgraceful. Whether it’s leaving them in dreadful conditions or banning them from the town centre, the Council doesn’t treat people with the respect they deserve.

  2. Would the Croydon council that keeps families in unsuitable and expensive temporary accommodation for longer than the legal limit be related to the Croydon council that, through Brick by Brick, has built homes it can’t sell and won’t rent and are left empty?

    I think we should be told.

  3. Sarah Bird says:

    Given the numerous independent reports into the Council , why are the staff still employed ? Why are so many people in Croydon failed ? The level of homelessness is Croydon is totally unacceptable at every level. The attitude of the staff leaves much be desired as all the investigations prove . If this was the private sector , it would be very different. Where is the accountability from the council, and the Mayor ?

    • The Mayor is accountable, as all local politicians are, at the ballot box once every four years. That’s probably why Labour lost control of the council in May, Sarah.

      Hundreds of council staff have paid for the mismanagement of Croydon Council with their jobs.

      But the senior management, execs and directors? It is the Mayor’s job to hold these people to account. Let’s see if he does his job.

    • “If this was the private sector, it would be very different”.

      Yes, Sarah. It would. There would be little or no accountability at all.

      We’ve all seen how the privatised water companies have got away with dumping shit and their CEOs have been paid huge bonuses. Sewage pollution has now been legalised.

      Then there’s all the private sector paragons of virtue who made huge profits by overcharging us for dodgy PPE at the start of of the pandemic. Nobody’s been done for that.

      And when it comes to housing, last month the Metro newspaper revealed that only 56 private landlords have been blacklisted and placed on the government’s rogue landlord register more than four years on from its launch.

      The report notes before the pandemic struck, government ministers were considering whether to extend the register’s scope to include landlords who charged tenants unfair fees or who failed to deal with mice and rats. That consultation closed in October 2019 but to date the government has done nothing.

      The Tories’ mantra ‘public sector bad, private sector good’ is a big lie but it’s made them and their donors very rich at our expense.

  4. Dneirf says:

    Windmill Place 10 homes
    Northbrook Road 11 homes
    Chertsey Crescent 7 homes
    Thorneloe Gardens 10 homes
    Coldharbour Lane 8 homes

    Someone should look into when these homes were finished and when people moved in.
    If they can’t be occupied; why???

    Despicable that there are people living in substandard accommodation when people being paid to deliver these homes were chilling out on 4 day weeks and coasting along waiting to be pushed.

  5. Ian Kierans says:

    9 months of hell? 27 other families? £2800?

    So what the Ombudsman is saying is that Croydon Council can ignore regulations laws and codes along with it’s civic duty save thousands of pounds in doing so and get fined less that £40 a week per person.
    In doing so no person or group of people have any disciplinary, dismissal or sequestering for this act of neglect?
    Yet we have to pay this out of Council tax?

    Yet again this Council Directors of (whatever shit buzzword they are calling themselves presently) show the true attitude to their duties as Public Servants.

    The Ombudsman needs to have the powers to step intercede in these matters to rectify failures within a week and take retrospective action also. Failures of Directors to monitor events in their portfolio on a monthly reporting basis should be removed. incidents that occur in one period and are not rectified in the next should lead to their dismissal for incompetence – no Negrini!

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