Summary: Miss X complained about the way the Council dealt with her homelessness application. It arranged unsuitable accommodation while it considered her application and review requests. It took too long to make a final decision and it did not follow the correct process for carrying out a review. Overall the Council took 55 weeks from the time she first applied to reach its final decision to accept the main housing duty.
The Ombudsman upheld the complaint and found fault causing injustice.
Within three months of the date of this report the Council should:
- arrange for a senior officer to write to Miss X to apologise for its poor handling of her case;
- pay £3,500 to recognise the hardship caused by her 14 months stay in unsuitable accommodation (£250 for each month).
The Council should also take the following action to improve the service for homeless applicants.
- Ask applicants to read the suitability of accommodation assessment form and sign to indicate their agreement. If there is a dispute about the applicant’s needs, to record that on the form and refer it to a manager for a decision.
- Produce a briefing note to remind officers of the duty to keep the suitability of interim accommodation under review and to respond promptly if they receive information that indicates a person’s accommodation may not be suitable for their needs.
- Overhaul its process for dealing with homelessness reviews to eliminate delays and ensure the Review Officer reviews the whole decision afresh by considering all relevant criteria, including any new material or facts that have come to light since the original decision, within a single review.