‘Too often councils are failing in their duties’ on homelessness

Two-thirds of all upheld complaints to the Local Government Ombudsman about homelessness involve local authorities in London, including Croydon, according to a report published today.

“Too often we are finding councils at fault,” Ombudsman Michael King said today in releasing his office’s report, More Home Truths: learning lessons from complaints about the Homelessness Reduction Act.

For the past five years, local councils in England with housing responsibilities have had increased duties to help prevent people from becoming homeless.

“Despite this, some are still struggling to get it right,” the Ombudsman’s report has found.

The Homelessness Reduction Act was introduced to give councils greater responsibilities to help people at risk of homelessness earlier in the process to prevent them becoming homeless in the first place. “But all too often councils are failing in their duties, and some of the most vulnerable people in society are suffering as a result,” the Ombudsman’s office said today.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s report highlights examples of where councils have missed the opportunity to prevent people from becoming homeless.

  • In one case, a man had to sleep in his van for two years when he fled his home because of violence, after his council failed to accept his homelessness application.
  • In another case, a man was admitted to hospital because of mental health concerns because the council wrongly decided it could not help him.
  • And in another case, a man spent more than a month sleeping rough on the streets during the winter because the council failed to respond to his pleas for help.

The Ombudsman’s report highlights good practice and also offers questions that council housing staff and councillors can ask to check their own authorities are fulfilling their duties.

“Five years since the new Act came into force we would have expected the right systems and processes to have been embedded, and for officers to be well aware of their duties,” King said.

‘Too often councils have failed in the basics’: Ombudsman Michael King

“But unfortunately this is not always the case and too often we are finding councils at fault.

“Although we see many examples where councils have got things right, too often our investigations still find that councils have failed in the basics: they haven’t issued a Personalised Housing Plan or considered the support needs of the applicant.

“In other examples people are still telling us they have been turned away and told to come back when the court issues a warrant for their eviction.

“Based on real investigations from our casework, our latest report should help local councils examine their own processes and procedures to see where any gaps in practice may lie.

“I hope local authorities will take the report in the spirit in which it is intended to improve their response to people who may be approaching them at the lowest point in their lives.”

In 2021-2022, the Ombudsman received 372 complaints about homelessness, and upheld three-quarters of the 126 investigations it carried out. In a statement issued today, the Ombudsman’s office said, “By far the most complaints the Ombudsman received were from the London region, with nearly 60per cent of all complaints, and 65per cent of all upheld complaints, coming from people in the region.”

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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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