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Royal Borough of Greenwich (21 010 954)

Category : Housing > Allocations

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 12 Apr 2022

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mrs B complained that the Council did not agree with her request for a house on medical grounds. She said it was essential for her child’s medical needs. We did not find fault with the Council’s actions and we note that the policy has now changed so Mrs B can bid for houses.

The complaint

  1. Ms B complained that the Royal Borough of Greenwich (the Council) failed to properly consider her request to be re-housed in a house rather than a flat or maisonette. She says this is essential for her son’s needs both now and in the future. The refusal to allow her request for a house is causing her significant distress.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)
  2. 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)
  3. 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)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered the complaint and the documents provided by the complainant, made enquiries of the Council and considered the comments and documents the Council provided. Ms B and the Council had an opportunity to comment on my draft decision. I considered any comments received before making a final decision.
  2.  

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What I found

The Council’s housing allocations scheme

  1. Prior to February 2022 the Council’s allocations policy only allowed existing Council tenants in Bands, A, B1 and B2 to bid for houses. Other applicants in those bands could only bid for flats and maisonettes.
  2. Form 15 February 2022 the Council changed its policy to allow all applicants on the Register to bid for all types of accommodation.

What happened

  1. Mrs B lives in a one room of a shared house with her partner and two young children. The youngest has developmental difficulties. She has been on the housing register since December 2019. She was initially in Band C, the general needs band, which allowed her to bid on all types of accommodation including houses.
  2. In January 2020 following a visit, the Council concluded her youngest child needed their own room and the family was overcrowded. The Council placed her application in Band B1 which allowed her to bid for three-bedroom flats and maisonettes but not houses. She could still bid for three-bedroom houses with her Band C priority.
  3. In July 2020 Mrs B applied for additional priority on medical grounds due to her child’s needs to allow her to bid for houses in Band B1. After referring her case to the medical adviser, the Council decided in October 2020, that a house was not medically necessary and a flat would be suitable as long as there were no stairs or there was a lift.
  4. Mrs B appealed against the decision and in January 2021 the Council confirmed that a house was not medically necessary. Mrs B asked for a further review and In March 2021 the Council awarded her ‘out of turn’ status. This meant the Council would actively look for a suitable property for her (a three-bedroom flat) and make a direct offer to her, with no competition from other applicants.
  5. Mrs B continued to press for a house on the basis of her child’s needs, including a parking space near to the house. In April 2021 the Council confirmed, after obtaining a medical adviser’s opinion, that a house was not medically necessary to meet their needs and a flat would be suitable.
  6. In August 2021 Mrs B bid for a three-bedroom ground floor flat and the Council offered the flat to her. In September 2021 she then withdrew her bid saying she wanted a house.
  7. In October 2021 she complained to the Ombudsman.
  8. In February 2022 Mrs B provided some more information about her child’s condition and again requested a three-bedroom house with a drive, which could be adapted if necessary.
  9. In early March 2022 the Council informed Mrs B that the Council’s policy had now changed, and she could bid for houses as well as flats.

Analysis

  1. I have not identified any fault in the way the Council dealt with Mrs B’s housing application. It awarded her priority in accordance with its allocations policy and agreed that the family required a three-bedroom property. It considered her request for a house on medical grounds on three separate occasions but considered that a three-bedroom flat without stairs would be suitable. It recognised her difficult situation and awarded her ‘out of turn’ priority. It also agreed to look for suitable properties and make her a direct offer.
  2. I understand Mrs B would prefer a house, but I cannot find fault with the way the Council reached its view that a flat without stairs would be suitable. I am pleased the Council’s policy has now changed and Mrs B can bid for houses with the band B1 priority.

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Final decision

  1. I have completed my investigation into this complaint as I am unable to find fault causing injustice in the actions of the Council towards Mrs B.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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