London Borough of Camden (22 009 421)

Category : Housing > Allocations

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 01 Mar 2023

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mr X complained the Council has failed to correctly assess his housing application. We find the Council was at fault for failing to consider all relevant evidence and failing to follow its policy. The Council has agreed to apologise for the injustice caused, review the application and implement service improvements to prevent the fault reoccurring.

The complaint

  1. Mr X complained the Council has failed to correctly assess his housing application. He says the Council:
    • failed to properly consider his medical condition and award the correct banding.
    • failed to provide him with ground floor priority.
    • incorrectly removed his hardship and social points.
    • failed to award an additional bedroom.
  2. He says this has prevented him from being able to bid on properties and it has caused him stress.

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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 consider whether there was fault in the way an organisation made its decision. If there was no fault in the decision making, we cannot question the outcome. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
  3. If we are satisfied with an organisation’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 information provided by Mr X and discussed the complaint with him;
    • The Council’s comments on the complaint and the supporting information it provided; and
    • Relevant law and guidance.
  2. Mr X and the organisation had an opportunity to comment on my draft decision. I considered any comments received before making a final decision.

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What I found

Law and guidance

  1. Every local housing authority must publish an allocations scheme that sets out how it prioritises applicants, and its procedures for allocating housing.  All allocations must be made in strict accordance with the published scheme. (Housing Act 1996, section 166A(1) & (14))
  2. An allocations scheme must give reasonable preference to applicants in the following categories:
    • homeless people;
    • people in insanitary, overcrowded or unsatisfactory housing;
    • people who need to move on medical or welfare grounds;
    • people who need to move to avoid hardship to themselves or others;
      (Housing Act 1996, section 166A(3))

The Council’s allocation policy

  1. The Council’s allocation policy awards points for various reasonable preference categories. The higher the points the greater the level of priority an applicant receives for bidding.
  2. In relation to medical priority the Council awards either category one or category two. For category one, the applicant must show that their current housing has a serious impact on their health and wellbeing with an urgent need for rehousing. For category two the applicants must show that their housing has a serious impact on their health.
  3. The policy gives examples of situations requiring urgent rehousing as:
    • being housebound due the housing.
    • having substantial care needs not met by adult social care.
    • requiring permanent substantial medical equipment.
    • a fulltime wheelchair user requiring an adapted property.
    • having moderate or severe dementia.
    • loss of function on one side due to strokes or brain-injury.
    • advanced motor neurone disease or multiple sclerosis.
  4. Further points can be awarded for social needs and hardship. This will be awarded if the applicant needs to give or receive long-term substantial care, accessing specialist medical and support facilities. The policy says the distance, transport options, costs and personal factors will be taken into account.
  5. The policy says the application can include your spouse or partner, dependent children, and other adults dependent on you. It says you are entitled to one bedroom for you and partner/spouse, one bedroom for any additional two people of the same sex or of the opposite sex aged nine and under. It notes an additional bedroom will be allowed when sharing with a family member whose care needs or behavioural problems severely affect your ability to sleep which in turn effects your employment or mental health. Supporting evidence would need to be provided by a psychiatrist, occupational health provider or other relevant professional.

What happened

  1. Mr X lives in a two-bedroom flat with his wife and two daughters. He, his wife and his older daughter suffer from health issues. He says the flat has mould issues which is exacerbating these.
  2. In mid-January 2022 Mr X applied for a transfer due to the family’s health issues and harassment concerns. He asked for the Council to consider him for a three-bedroom property. He provided the Council with a letter from his GP and the hospital along with other documents.
  3. The Council completed its assessment in late March and verbally informed Mr X of the outcome. He was told he and his daughter had been awarded category two medical points as well as harassment and violence, essential repairs, hardship and social points and he could bid on two-bedroom properties. He objected to the decision.
  4. The Council carried out a stage one review which awarded 300 medical points, and 75 harassment points. It maintained its decision Mr X and his daughter were entitled to category two medical points, but that his wife had no entitlement. It stated he was entitled to a fourth-floor property in a lifted building or a first-floor property in an un-lifted building. It also decided to remove the hardship and social points.
  5. Mr X requested a review of the decision in mid-April 2022. He made the request as he felt he should have been awarded more medical points, points for hardship and social, prioritisation for a ground floor flat and a three-bedroomed property.
  6. In August 2022 the Council arranged for a review by two medical experts - a psychiatrist and a GP. The psychiatrist recommended category two medical points. They also stated there were probably grounds for three bedrooms due to Mr X’s health issues.
  7. The GP was asked to review Mr X’s objections and comment on these. The Council provided a copy of the psychiatrist report for review at this time. The GP noted the psychiatrist’s advice for additional space, and recommended category two medical points, first floor maximum and ‘nil else specific’.
  8. The Council wrote to Mr X in late September to inform him of the outcome of his review request. He had not been assessed as requiring a third bedroom and he had not met the criteria for category one medical points. He was also not entitled to hardship and social points because there were transport options to attend medical appointments.


Medical Priority and ground floor priority

  1. The medical evidence provided by Mr X was considered when deciding what medical priority to award. The initial application was considered by an occupational therapist and on appeal Mr X’s documents were referred to relevant medical experts as part of the review. The Council has explained its decision in line with this policy and the medical advice received. There is no fault in Council consideration of Mr X’s medical points.

Bedroom assessment

  1. The Council’s policy says that couples are allocated to one room and two children of the same sex are allocated one room. As Mr X has two daughters, he would be entitled to two rooms based on the number of occupants. The policy also states that an additional room will be awarded due to care needs or behavioural problems which severely affect sleep which in turn effect employment or mental health.
  2. The Council took steps to consider whether Mr X was eligible for an additional room. It obtained a medical report to determine if his behavioural problems met the requirement for an additional room. How much weight should be placed on this evidence is a professional opinion. I would, though, expect the Council to have given it close scrutiny and, if minded not to accept it, a detailed explanation for this.
  3. The psychiatrist recorded there were ‘probably’ grounds for an additional bedroom given the severity of Mr X’s health issues. In the review decision there was no reasoning, based on this evidence, for awarding two bedrooms. The Council has explained to the Ombudsman that this is because the GP did not recommend this. This does not address why it discounted the recommendation of the psychiatrist. This is fault.

Social and Hardship points

  1. The Council removed Mr X’s social need and hardship points as he is a resident in Camden. The Council say the hospital he attends is in Camden and his family live in Camden. The allocation policy does not indicate that if you are a resident of Camden you are not entitled to social need and hardship points.
  2. The policy says it will consider distance, transport options, costs and personal factors. In Mr X’s application the Council did not consider whether there were available transport routes, cost or whether personal circumstances meant that he could travel to either the hospital or his family. The Council’s decision does not follow its policy, and this is fault.


  1. I have found fault in the handling of Mr X’s housing application and appeal. I cannot say the Council should have awarded him more points or an extra bedroom, as the decision to award points is a matter of professional judgement. Mr X believes he has missed out on being able to bid for three bedroom properties but I cannot, currently, say that he has suffered this injustice. He is frustrated at being unable to change his present circumstances and feel it could have been different had the assessment been done correctly. This is an injustice.

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Agreed action

  1. The Council will within one month of the final decision:
    • Apologise to Mr X for the injustice caused by the faults identified above.
    • Carry out a new review of Mr X’s application in line with its allocations policy. The Council should backdate any extra points or additional bedroom it awards following the review.
    • Remind staff to give proper scrutiny to any relevant supporting evidence and explain their reasons for not relying on the evidence where they decide not to.
    • Remind staff of its policy for social need and hardship points. This includes the importance of considering the factors listed in the policy and ensuring decision reasons are recorded in full.
  2. The Council should provide us with evidence it has complied with the above actions.

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Final decision

I have completed my investigation. I have found fault leading to injustice. I have recommended action to remedy the injustice and prevent recurrence of the fault.

Investigator’s final decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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