Oadby and Wigston Borough Council has refused to accept it has done anything wrong when it failed to take a homelessness application from a victim of domestic violence, despite an Ombudsman investigation into its actions.
The woman had been living in another council area when she approached the council for help to house herself and her children. Despite the woman having lived and worked in Oadby and Wigston’s area, and telling officers she was at risk of domestic violence if she stayed in the other area, the council did not take a homelessness application from her.
Instead Oadby and Wigston placed the responsibility on the other authority to assess and accommodate the family. The woman and her children had to stay in unsuitable bed and breakfast accommodation in the other authority’s area until the council decided it would take their application and house them after all.
The Ombudsman’s investigation found fault with the way Oadby and Wigston Borough Council dealt with the family, and its reasoning for not taking a homelessness application was flawed. The council insisted the blame lay with the other council and has not yet accepted it had any responsibility for the injustice caused to the family.
The family has since moved to privately rented accommodation.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:
“It is important for councils to be aware of their homelessness obligations and properly assess when they have a duty towards people. When vulnerable families are involved, it is particularly vital. It is not enough to pass the responsibility onto other councils simply because the person has applied to two separate councils for help.
“I have made some very simple, practical recommendations to help improve the council’s services for other homeless people and I would urge the council to review my report and accept the improvements I have asked it to make.”
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 should apologise to the mum and pay her £500 to recognise the injustice caused.
The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. The Ombudsman has recommended the council provide training to its housing staff to ensure they can identify when a homelessness application should be taken.
The council has not yet accepted the Ombudsman’s recommendations.
Article date: 30 May 2019