Homeless Haringey family left in bed and breakfast accommodation because of council errors

A Haringey mother of six has been living in bed and breakfast accommodation since February 2020 because her local council did not do enough to prevent her from becoming homeless, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.

The mother, some of whose children are disabled, had been living in privately rented accommodation when her landlord sought to evict her.

Instead of helping the mother find accommodation before she was evicted, the council asked the family to stay in the property until the eviction date, despite a senior housing manager telling colleagues this was not legally appropriate.

The council has offered the family two properties, one of which was too far away from the family’s support network, and the other needed repairs; the family remains in bed and breakfast accommodation.

The Ombudsman’s investigation found the council should have taken action some months sooner, when the mother first told officers she was at risk of becoming homeless, rather than waiting for the bailiffs to evict her. The council was also at fault for not helping to find the family somewhere to live when they were facing eviction, and for failing to consider their financial hardship before having to pay costs for the court order to evict them.

Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, Michael King said:

“London Borough of Haringey should have acted sooner when the mother alerted them to the possibility her family would be made homeless. With large family homes difficult to find in the area, it was all the more important for the council to act swiftly to secure alternative, emergency accommodation before the family were evicted.

“The council has assured me this is an isolated example of poor practice, but I am concerned that some of the issues raised during the investigation may have had an impact on other people. I hope the review the council has committed to undertake will ensure it can learn from what has gone wrong in this case to ensure other people are not affected in this way again.”

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 to the mother and pay her court costs.

It will also pay her £1,500 to recognise her avoidable distress, and a further amount in recognition of the fact the family has been in bed and breakfast accommodation for so long, causing further inconvenience and additional avoidable costs.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council will review a sample of homelessness cases and provide extra staff training.

Article date: 09 July 2020