Council ignores medical evidence when deciding man’s housing application

Croydon council failed to take into account a man’s life-threatening health conditions – despite receiving letters from his specialists – when it decided the type of homes he could apply for, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.

The man, who has epilepsy, agoraphobia and anxiety, had asked London Borough of Croydon to consider him for accommodation with two bedrooms, so he could have carers stay with him, but the council decided he was adequately housed and has told the man he does not meet the level needed to be considered under ‘health related criteria’.

The Ombudsman’s investigation has criticised the council for taking too long to carry out a review of the man’s situation. It has also found the council at fault for reaching its decision not to award the man medical priority based on advice from an independent advisor, who had not examined or even spoken to the man.

Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, Michael King, said:

“Councils can take into account advice from independent medical advisers when reviewing people’s housing applications, but the final decision must be down to the council itself.

“It is difficult to see how Croydon council could base its review decision on paperwork provided by someone who had neither examined or even spoken to the man, without considering evidence provided by the man’s medical specialists.

“I am pleased the council has accepted the report and its findings. It has confirmed its approach to considering medical evidence is now in line with its own policy and established case law. I hope these changes will mean housing decisions will be taken in a more transparent and accurate way in future.”

The man, who currently lives in a one-bedroomed ground floor property, told the council he needed to move due to noise and antisocial behaviour having a significant effect on his epilepsy.

He provided supporting evidence from both his consultant neurologist, who said his condition had deteriorated and the frequency of his seizures was ‘life threatening’, and his GP, who said his epilepsy was worsened by noisy situations.

The council’s independent housing medical adviser said the man had epilepsy, but no evidence of health-related housing needs.

Based on this, the council told the man he does not meet the minimum threshold to be included on its register under the ‘health-related’ criteria.  It did not consider the evidence provided by the man’s consultant and GP and took 33 weeks to do this review, despite its own policy stating it should only take eight weeks.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s role is to remedy injustice and share learning from investigations to help improve public, and adult social care, services.

In this case, the council has agreed to carry out a fresh review of its decision about the man’s medical priority and issue him with a decision. If it decides to award the man medical priority, it should backdate this to May 2017.

The council has also agreed to pay the man £250 for the distress caused by the delay and for his time and trouble in making the complaint.

Article date: 20 June 2018

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