The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mrs X complained the Council failed to consider her husband’s and daughter’s medical needs when assessing their allocated housing band. The Council is not at fault
- The complainant, who I will refer to as Mrs X, complained the Council failed to consider her husband’s and daughter’s medical needs when reviewing her family's housing band. She believes the Council wrongly banded the family as silver instead of gold.
- Mrs X states the current home is overcrowded and is impacting on her husband’s and daughter’s medical health. She is frustrated the Council has not explained how it made its decision
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints of injustice caused by ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
- If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I discussed the complaint with Mrs X.
- I made enquires of the Council and reviewed the documents provided.
- Mrs X and the Council both had the opportunity to comment on my draft decision.
What I found
- Councils have a legal duty to have a scheme for allocating housing. A council can set its own housing policies and decide all parts of the allocations process.
- The law says a council must give people with a high housing need “reasonable preference” through the allocations scheme. This includes applicants that:
- are homeless;
- are living in overcrowded, insanitary or otherwise unsatisfactory conditions; and
- need to move based on medical or welfare grounds.
- Mrs X lives with her husband and three children in a two-bedroom property. Mrs X shares a bedroom with her husband. The three children, two girls and a boy, are aged eleven, ten and seven and share the second bedroom.
- In 2013 the Council allocated the family silver banding because the property was overcrowded and lacked a bedroom.
- In 2017, Mrs X asked the Council to review the allocated banding because of her husband’s (Mr X) and daughter’s (Y) medical needs.
- On 7 March, a Housing Officer visited Mrs X and completed a report. This stated:
- Mr X suffers from a skin disorder that he manages with immunosuppressant medication. This is linked to stress. Mr X had previously been hospitalised when this flared up. Overcrowding at home was leading to Mr X feeling stressed.
- Y suffers from restrictive eating patterns which are affected by stress. Mrs X said Y was stressed because of sharing a room with her two younger siblings.
- The Ombudsman cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached.
- Mrs X complained the Council failed to consider medical evidence when assessing the family’s housing banding. Specifically, she felt Y’s and Mr X’s medical conditions met the criteria for gold priority under medical need.
- The stage one review letter advised the Council considered the medical history of Mr X and Y. It also considered the medical advisor’s opinion that Mr X’s and Y’s medical conditions had not been significantly affected by living in their home. The Council made its decision based on this advice. There was no fault in the Council’s actions.
- The Council has confirmed the appeal panel considered all the medical evidence. However, the letter sent to Mrs X following the appeal did not explain how the panel reached its decision that Mr X and Y’s medical conditions did not give the family medical priority need.
- The Council therefore failed at both stages to provide Mrs X with an explanation about why they did not qualify for medical need.
- Although there are lessons the Council can learn from this complaint over how it communicates its decisions to applicants, I stop short of making a finding of fault. This is because the Council did consider all the medical evidence when assessing the family’s housing banding.
- Mrs X complained the Council failed to consider her husband’s and daughter’s medical needs when assessing their allocated housing band. The Council is not at fault. Therefore, I have completed my investigation.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman