The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Miss B complains the Council did not consider properly her application to the housing register. She says it disregarded her medical evidence. The Council did not say why it would not accept Miss B’s explanations of why the address on the GP’s letter was different to her home address. The Council will, within the next six weeks, apologise to Miss B and consider a fresh application from her.
- Miss B complains the Council did not consider properly her application to the housing register. She says it disregarded her medical evidence. She says the privately rented property where she lives is in a poor state of repair and is adversely affecting her mental and physical health.
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 considered the complaint and spoke to Miss B. I asked the Council for its comments on the complaint and additional information. I sent a copy of a draft of this statement to Miss B and the Council and invited their comments
What I found
- Miss B lives in a privately rented flat. She applied to join the Council’s housing register. She said she had an exceptional need to move. She said where she was living had an adverse impact on both her mental and physical health.
- Miss B supplied a letter from her GP which said they were concerned about the effect Miss B’s housing was having on her health. The doctor said Miss B had asthma and mental health problems. They thought the mouse infestation Miss B had reported had worsened her asthma and they had increased her medication. They said problems with the landlord had led to an increase in her anxiety problems.
- The letter from the GP did not refer to Miss B’s current address. The Council refused her application as it considered she had not shown she had any housing need.
- Miss B appealed against the decision. The Council said there could not be a review on the medical information as it had not made a decision on that. Miss B complained and the Council maintained its position so Miss B complained to the Ombudsman.
- The key issue here is the Council has not accepted the letter from the GP in support of Miss B’s application as the address on the letter is not where Miss B lives but her old home address with her mother.
- My role is to consider whether there has been administrative fault by the Council in its assessment of Miss B’s application. It is acceptable for the Council to want the information Miss B supplies in support of her application to be consistent. Miss B has explained that the reason the address is different is because she is in the middle of a course of treatment and does not want to change to another doctor. The doctor was unable to manually alter the address to show Miss B’s actual home address.
- In response to my enquiries about the complaint the Council has commented on the substance of the letter from the GP. In summary its position is the medical conditions referred to by the GP would not show a medical need for rehousing. This would mean that Miss B would not qualify to join the housing register.
- Miss B provided reasons why the address on the GP’s letter was different but the Council did not have proper regard to this in the review response in July. The letter was unsigned with no name of the person who had carried out the review given. They did not provide any demonstration of the consideration they had given to the explanation Miss B had provided. When Miss B complained the Council repeated its position but still did not give any reasons why it wouldn’t accept Miss B’s explanation of why the address was different.
- The failure to provide reasons for the decision reached is fault. The Council’s response to me says that even if it had considered the medical information it would still not have accepted an application to the housing register from Miss B.I am not going to come to any view on that as it should go through the proper process. The Council should consider a fresh application from Miss B with any medical information she wishes to provide. It should give her a decision on the substance of her application and if that decision is not to allow her to join the housing register it should tell her of her right to request a review.
- The Council should apologise and consider a fresh application from Miss B and consider the substance of all the information she provides.
- The Council did not say why it would not accept Miss B’s explanations of why the address on the GP’s letter was different to her home address. The Council should apologise to Miss B and consider a fresh application from her.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman