The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Council has agreed to pay Miss X and her family £4350 to recognised the injustice caused to them as a result of placing them in bed and breakfast accommodation for longer than it should have.
- Miss X complains the Council placed her family in unsuitable bed and breakfast accommodation for longer than it should have. Miss X says this caused her and her family significant distress.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- 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)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered information provided by the complainant and the Council.
- I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code and Guidance on Remedies.
- The complainant and their representative now have an opportunity to comment on my draft decision. I will consider their comments before making a final decision.
- The law says that bed and breakfast accommodation is not suitable for homeless families. The law says councils can place families in bed and breakfast accommodation for up to 6 weeks if no other interim or temporary accommodation is available.
- The Council placed Miss X and her family in two different sets of bed and breakfast accommodation for a total of 35 weeks. This is 29 weeks longer than the law allows. This is fault.
- The Ombudsman’s Guidance on Remedies recognises the significant injustice faced by families living in bed and breakfast accommodation due to a lack of facilities and cramped living and sleeping arrangements. We would usually recommend a payment of £50 to £150 per week for every week a family should not have been in bed and breakfast accommodation.
- Given the ages and genders of Miss X’s children and the fact they were sharing a room and the family was sharing facilities with other households we have recommended the Council pay the family a financial remedy at the upper end of this scale. The Council has agreed to pay the family £4350 to recognise the injustice caused to the family as a result of being in bed and breakfast accommodation for longer than they should have been.
- Miss X’s representatives have asked for a further financial remedy to recognise the distress caused to her children. Miss X’s representatives have cited a previous Ombudsman decision about the Council to justify this request. We have considered the previous case, however there were unique circumstances which meant a further remedy for distress was justified. There is no justification for a further remedy for distress in this case.
- We have already recommended the Council take action to improve its services in a recent complaint. This includes working to increase the availability of temporary and interim accommodation in its area for homeless households. Therefore we have not made any specific service improvement recommendations in this complaint.
- The Council has agreed to pay Miss X’s family £4350 to recognise the injustice caused to the family as a result of being in bed and breakfast accommodation for longer than they should have been.
- The Council should take this action within 4 weeks of our final decision.
- We will not investigate this complaint. This is because the Council has agreed to take action to remedy the injustice caused to Miss X.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman