The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about the way the Council dealt with his homelessness and associated issues as any fault does not lead to an injustice greater than that remedied by their apologies and offer of a £500 payment for time and trouble.
- Mr X complains the Council did not take his physical disability into account when dealing with his homelessness and in finding him interim emergency accommodation.
- Mr X further complains he was discriminated against, suffered from a lack of communication, was not signposted on how to escalate his complaint further and that £500 offered in recognition of the issues and stress caused to him is not enough.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- The Ombudsman investigates complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’, which we call ‘fault’. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint, which we call ‘injustice’. We provide a free service but must use public money carefully. We do not start or may decide not to continue with an investigation if we decide:
- we could not add to any previous investigation by the organisation, or
- further investigation would not lead to a different outcome.
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))
How I considered this complaint
- I considered information provided by the complainant and the Council.
- I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.
- Mr X presented to the Council as homeless in early October 2020. The Council placed him into interim emergency accommodation. Mr X was then placed into temporary accommodation in late November 2020. Following on from this Mr X was placed into more permanent accommodation in September 2021.
- Although there were issues of Mr X being moved various times during the period of interim emergency accommodation, the accommodation not always being suitable for his needs and communication around this not always being as good as it could have been, the Council cite the pressures and restrictions of the Covid pandemic and demand for accommodation far outstripping supply as issues relevant at the time. The Council have admitted this and apologised for it but state that some of the events were beyond their control.
- At one of the hotels used as interim emergency accommodation, Mr X was checked into an accessible room and then later moved out at short notice as there had been a double booking/check in error on the part of the hotel. Mr X cites this as discrimination due to his ethnicity. The Council do not uphold this element of Mr X’s complaint and state it was an administration error on the part of the hotel.
- Mr X’s initial complaint to the Council in November 2020 did not signpost him to the next stage of the complaints’ process. The Council have admitted fault here, apologised and taken remedial action to ensure this does not happen again.
- Mr X is unhappy with the quantity of information he received during the period of his temporary accommodation in relation to charges, housing benefit and council tax. The Council confirm Mr X was advised in his booking letters that he would be responsible for council tax payments. It is reasonable to expect Mr X to be aware of his obligation to pay council tax on a property where he resides. Evidence shows that a plan has been put in place to address council tax arrears. Evidence also shows the accommodation charge being calculated as nil.
- Service charges for this accommodation were a little under £20 per week. Mr X claims he was not advised of the amount of these charges from moving into the property in late November 2020 until the end of April 2021. The Council maintain Mr X was advised in December 2020 and then again in April 2021.
- Mr X had to wait outside a Council office during poor weather as he was 30 minutes early for his appointment and members of the public were not allowed inside due to Council policy at the time, nor were they allowed access to the toilets. He is frustrated he was not advised of this when the appointment was made. The Council state this information was available on their website but apologise he was not informed prior to visiting.
- The Council have advised they are not able to waive council tax or service charges for accommodation but have offered to pay Mr X £500 for the distress, worry, frustration and disappointment caused to him. This amount is within the range we would normally recommend in similar cases.
- We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint as where the Council have admitted fault, any fault does not lead to an injustice greater than that which will be remedied by the offer of £500.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman