London Borough of Waltham Forest (22 012 789)

Category : Housing > Homelessness

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 25 Jan 2024


Key to names used

  • Mrs X The complainant
  • Mr Y Her husband


Mrs X complained about several failures by the Council in the way it handled her case when she became homeless in early August 2022. In particular, the Council delayed in deciding if it owed a relief duty and delayed issuing the letter, delayed providing Mrs X a Personal Housing Plan (PHP), failed to provide Mrs X interim or temporary accommodation, and delayed responding to Mrs X’s complaint. Mrs X says this caused her distress, worry, time and trouble and meant her family were sofa surfing with family and friends. The Council’s delay in issuing a decision also delayed her right to a review of that decision.


Fault found causing injustice and recommendations made.


The Council must consider the report and confirm within three months the action it has taken or proposes to take. The Council should consider the report at its full Council, Cabinet or other appropriately delegated committee of elected members and we will require evidence of this. (Local Government Act 1974, section 31(2), as amended)

In addition to the requirements above, within one month of this report, the Council will:

  • apologise to Mrs X for the distress and uncertainty caused by:

    • its delay in accepting a relief duty and issuing her PHP;

    • not providing interim accommodation between early August 2022 and early August 2023 when the Council had reason to believe Mrs X may be homeless, eligible for assistance and in priority need;

    • ending the relief duty without giving a statutory reason and then delaying making the decision on the main housing duty; and

    • delaying a referral to the children’s services department for assistance.

  • pay Mrs X £6,000, which is £500 per month for the time Mrs X and her family spent without interim accommodation. The Ombudsman’s guidance on remedies recommends a payment of £150-£350 for each month spent in unsuitable accommodation. But we may recommend a higher monthly amount where the injustice is exceptional or particularly severe, as in this case;

    Mrs X, her husband and dependent children were put to significant disruption moving between multiple friends’ houses and at times they were sleeping on the floor. This was unsuitable accommodation for over a year. The lack of interim accommodation was an injustice to the whole family. Moving between accommodation also made it difficult for Mrs X’s children to get to school.

    We have made service improvement recommendations to prevent these problems being experienced by others. Within three months of this report the Council will:

  • remind relevant staff that the Council is under a statutory duty to provide interim accommodation if it has “reason to believe” an applicant may be homeless, eligible for assistance, and in priority need;
  • provide the Ombudsman with evidence to show the actions it is taking to procure sufficient interim accommodation, including larger properties for families, is making a difference. Six months after reporting to us the Council should provide a further update to show what progress has been made;
  • explain what steps it has taken, and is taking, to reduce the delays in making homelessness decisions caused by staffing shortages; and

  • provide an action plan on how it will address the delays at stage 2 of its complaint process to ensure it responds within its published timescales.

The Council cooperated fully with our investigation and has accepted our recommendations.

Print this page

LGO logogram

Review your privacy settings

Required cookies

These cookies enable the website to function properly. You can only disable these by changing your browser preferences, but this will affect how the website performs.

View required cookies

Analytical cookies

Google Analytics cookies help us improve the performance of the website by understanding how visitors use the site.
We recommend you set these 'ON'.

View analytical cookies

In using Google Analytics, we do not collect or store personal information that could identify you (for example your name or address). We do not allow Google to use or share our analytics data. Google has developed a tool to help you opt out of Google Analytics cookies.

Privacy settings