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Category : Housing > Allocations

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 08 Aug 2016

Summary

A woman complains about two council's failure to provide timely and sensitive help when she needed to be rehoused due to domestic violence.

The complaint

She complains about Brent Council's failure to provide timely and sensitive help when she needed to be rehoused due to domestic violence.

She also complains about Ealing's Council failure to make a timely decision when Brent Council referred her under a reciprocal housing scheme for victims of domestic violence. The council took 11 weeks to make a decision which should have been made in five days. She also complains about the council's decision to reject the referral and its failure to communicate with her and her representative.

A reciprocal housing agreement intended for rehousing victims of domestic violence did not work effectively. The woman suffered avoidable uncertainty and distress at a very difficult time.

Finding

The Ombudsman upheld the complaint and found fault causing injustice.

Recommendations

Within three months of the date of this report, Brent Council should:

  • pay the woman £750 for the distress and anxiety caused by its delays and insensitive handling of her housing needs;

  • pay the woman's representative £250 for the support she has provided and the help she has given the woman to pursue her complaints;

  • arrange for a senior manager to write directly to the woman to apologise for the way the council treated her;

  • provide refresher training for front-line staff in the Housing Options service about the domestic violence procedure and joint working with the Brent Housing Partnership (BHP) when the victim is a council tenant; and

  • provide evidence that it has reviewed the liaison and joint working arrangements between BHP and Housing Options and addressed any shortcomings.

    Within three months of the date of this report, Ealing Council should:

  • pay the woman £600 for the distress and anxiety caused by its delay in making a decision on the referral and its failure to communicate with her and her representative;

  • arrange for a senior manager to apologise in writing to the woman for the poor handling of her case;

  • arrange for a designated officer to act as a central contact point to log and monitor the progress of all referrals made under the reciprocal scheme and report back to the Head of Service when cases have not been decided within the five day timescale;

  • review with its partners in the West London Housing Partnership and the scheme co-ordinator the protocol for the reciprocal scheme to make it clear that the applicant must be in priority need; and

  • report the outcome of that review to us.

    Both councils have accepted our findings and our recommendations for a remedy. Although there was no evidence of systemic faults, we decided that it was in the wider public interest to publish this report to highlight the injustice that can be caused to a vulnerable person when partnership arrangements do not work effectively.

Ombudsman satisfied with London Borough of Brent's response 15 November 2016

Ombudsman satisfied with London Borough of Ealing's response: 16 March 2017.

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