Enfield family left in unsuitable accommodation for three years

A disabled dad and his family were left in mouldy, mouse-infested temporary accommodation, despite Enfield council accepting it was not suitable for their needs, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.

The father, who has mobility problems and uses a wheelchair, first approached the Ombudsman in 2017. That investigation found the council had delayed reviewing the suitability of the accommodation it offered to the family.

When the review was carried out, the council found the home was not suitable for the family. The father had difficulty accessing the property; a ramp installed did not fit securely and the house could not be adapted for his wheelchair. The man also found managing his personal hygiene and toileting difficult. The council said it would provide the family with alternative accommodation.

Despite this, and despite the family’s representative telling the council there was severe mould and mice infestations, that the toilet leaked and the landlord was slow to fix any problems, the council failed to provide them with a new home.

A second Ombudsman investigation found the council at fault for not having a housing procurement policy in place detailing how it would meet expected demand. It also found fault with the way the council handled the disrepair problems at the property, and for failing to accept the representative’s concerns as a separate complaint.

The family was eventually provided with a new home by a local housing association in August 2020.

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

“The law doesn’t allow councils to leave people in unsuitable accommodation just because it can’t find anything suitable. It should have enough housing.

“In this case it had a significant impact on the family – the father slept on an airbed downstairs and was forced to use a commode as he could not access the bathroom safely. He could not live with dignity, and he was unable to take part in normal family life, putting his children to bed or look after them if they woke in the night.

“I’m pleased the council has accepted my recommendations, but it should not have taken a second investigation by my office to put things right properly for this family. I hope the changes it will now make will ensure others are not affected in the same way in 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 will apologise to the family and conduct a fresh Care Act assessment of the man. It will also ensure the Occupational Therapy equipment it provides is fit for purpose.

The council has also agreed to pay the family £250 for every month they were in unsuitable accommodation.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council will improve its guidance on what constitutes a complaint and write a procurement policy for securing accessible properties.

Article date: 10 September 2020

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