A man who called upon Merton council for help with housing, had to give up one of his jobs because he was given accommodation in Birmingham – leaving him with a three hour commute.
An investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found London Borough of Merton at fault because it did not take into account the man’s employment status when making the offer of accommodation so far away.
The man worked two jobs to support his family and says he told officers he was working when he asked for help in October 2017. The council says it has no record of this.
The Ombudsman found evidence the man had told the council about difficulties he was having maintaining his employment in November 2017, but the council failed to consider moving him closer to his employment.
The man has now found accommodation in the capital with the help of a council deposit scheme.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:
“The man told the council his jobs could not be done from the Midlands. Unfortunately he had to give up one of his jobs, and faced increased travel cost to get to the other. Had the council listened to the man’s concerns, it is likely he would not have been placed so far away from his work.
“I have previously talked about how the pre-conceived ideas of homelessness no longer ring true, and we’ve seen people in work come to us with complaints about their councils’ housing support. This is another example of the kind of problems experienced in today’s housing situation.
“I have asked the council to review the way it places people in temporary and interim accommodation, and hope other working homeless people will not be placed at such a disadvantage in the future.”
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 apologise and pay the man a total of £1,768. This is made up of £1,200 for placing him in unsuitable accommodation, £418 in travel costs and a further £150 for his time and trouble in bringing the complaint.
The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council will remind relevant staff of the need to consider the council’s policies when placing a homeless person or family. It will also review its placement policy to set out what factors it will consider when placing a self-employed person in interim or temporary accommodation.
Article date: 27 August 2020