Decision : Upheld
Decision date : 29 Nov 2016
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Failings by the Council’s children’s services department meant the complainant was not provided with housing as a care leaver in 2014 and was not afforded the priority she could have received on the local housing authority’s housing register. To remedy the injustice the Council offered Ms X a sum of compensation and the local housing authority has also offered her priority on its housing band for a period of time.
- Ms X says failings by the Council’s children’s services department meant she was not provided with housing as a care leaver in 2014 and was not afforded the priority she could have received on the local housing authority’s housing register.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- The Ombudsman investigates complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. She must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. She provides a free service, but must use public money carefully. She may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if she believes:
- it is unlikely she would find fault, or
- the fault has not caused injustice to the person who complained, or
- the injustice is not significant enough to justify her involvement, or
- it is unlikely she could add to any previous investigation by the Council, or
- she cannot achieve the outcome someone wants, or
- there is another body better placed to consider this complaint, or
- it would be reasonable for the person to ask for a council review or appeal.
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))
How I considered this complaint
- I considered the complaint and correspondence sent to the Ombudsman. I discussed matters with Ms X by telephone. I made enquiries of the local housing authority to ascertain its view on Ms X’s complaint and considered its comments and the information it provided. I sent a draft decision statement to Ms X and the Council and considered the comments of both parties on it.
What I found
- As a child Ms X was in supported housing in the care of the Council. The local housing authority operates a discretionary leaving supported accommodation scheme (LSA) for care leavers. This involves provision of rent deposits for private sector tenancies as well as priority on the housing register. Applicants have to meet the criteria for social housing allocation and can bid for housing through the authority’s lettings scheme. The scheme can only be used when the support or social worker involved with the applicant confirms the nomination in writing to the housing authority.
- Before Ms X left the care of the Council the Council should have sent a ‘nomination form’ to the local housing authority in support of her application for social housing. The Council accepts the allocated social worker did not complete the nomination form before Ms X left her care placement.
- The Council upheld Ms X’s complaint and offered her £1500 in compensation. But it could not offer her a remedy in terms of housing as it is not the local housing authority.
- I approached the housing authority to find out its view on Ms X’s situation. The housing authority accepts Ms X would have been eligible for nomination through its scheme and would have been placed in Band B on its register but for the Council’s failure to nominate her. It exercised its discretion to offer Ms X a remedy.
- The housing authority has a quota for the number of nominations through its LSA scheme. After considering Ms X’s circumstances it offered to include her in the scheme in the present year’s scheme. It will provide her with a priority banding of B which is the band where she would have been placed in 2014. Ms X will have the opportunity to bid for accommodation for a period of 10 months with this priority banding.
- I uphold Ms X’s complaint. The financial remedy offered by the Council is sufficient to address the injustice to Ms X in conjunction with the remedy offered by the housing authority.
- The Council should now pay the compensation to Ms X as soon as possible. The housing authority agreed to contact Ms X to process a housing register application.
- There was fault by the Council. I have closed the complaint on the basis of the action proposed by the two councils to remedy the injustice to Ms X.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman