Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 25 Mar 2015
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Ms B’s complaint that the Council has failed to help her move to accommodation that will meet her needs. There is no evidence of fault in the way the Council reached its decision on Ms B’s priority for a flat only.
- The complainant, whom I shall refer to as Ms B, complained that the Council has failed to help her move to accommodation that will meet her needs.
- Ms B is currently living in second floor maisonette without lift access which does not meet her needs.
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. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))
- The Ombudsman cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. She must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3))
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered the information Ms B sent to the Ombudsman, the Council’s responses to her complaint and Ms B’s comments on my draft decision.
What I found
- The Council places housing applications in three bands: A, B and C. Band C is for all applicants the Council has accepted onto its housing register. The Council houses band C applicants in date order from the date it registers the application. If the Council awards Band A or B priority to applicants, it houses them in date order from the date it gave the application priority.
- The Council uses the services of a medical advisor who can recommend housing priority. The medical advisor can also make special recommendations on the type of property the Council should allocate to a priority applicant.
- In September 2014 the Council agreed to give Ms B’s application Band B priority for medical reasons. But it told her this medical priority was for a flat only. That means although she can bid for an available house in the Council’s Choice Based Lettings Scheme, the Council would treat her as a Band C applicant without medical priority.
- Ms B says she uses a mobility scooter, she has dogs and she is unable to leave her home unless her partner is available to assist her. She says she will not part with her pets because they are part of her family and help with her health. Ms B told the Ombudsman she could not bid for available housing association flats because they all stated no pets were allowed.
- Officer Z, a senior housing officer, considered Ms B’s complaint at the final stage of the Council’s complaint procedure. Officer Z said in his final response to Ms B’s complaint he did not believe there were exceptional circumstances which would justify the Council not following its medical advisor’s recommendations. The medical advisor had said a ground or first floor flat with a lift would be suitable. Officer Z said the Council will only consider tenants in priority bands A and B who are already living in a house for rehousing to another house. It considers all other priority applicants for flats or maisonettes. Officer Z explained this is because the Council offers priority rehousing to meet safety or other needs, rather than to provide more desirable housing. He said 81% of the council properties which become available for letting are flats and maisonettes.
- Councils should normally follow the recommendations of their medical advisors. In this case Ms B made a complaint because she did not feel the Council had properly considered all of her circumstances. She said the Council’s housing allocation officers were putting pressure on her to give up her dogs. But the Council has now considered the points Ms B made in her complaint. It decided there were not exceptional circumstances which would justify not following the medical advisor’s recommendations. The Ombudsman cannot question that decision if there is no fault in the way the Council reached it. The Council has considered the reasons why Ms B believes she should have medical priority for a house. There is no evidence of fault in the way the Council reached its decision.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate Ms B’s complaint because there is no evidence of fault in the way the Council reached its decision on Ms B’s priority for a flat only.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman