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Council’s failure to pay agreed grant leaves family living on building site

A Croydon family was left to live on a building site for nearly two years after their local council failed to pay an agreed grant on time, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.

The family, which already included three children, took on the care of another child as part of a Special Guardianship agreement with London Borough of Croydon. The arrangement included the council paying £40,000 for an extension to the family’s two-bedroom home to ensure there was enough space to care for four children.

The family secured a bank loan for their part and builders started on the extension. But because the council did not pay the grant on time, the builders stopped work. The house and garden was left in disarray for 21 months while the family chased the council for the balance, which it finally paid in November 2021.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman said:

“The council’s delays have caused this family considerable stress and disruption: they’ve not had proper access to the front or back of their house, walls were left with large holes open to the outside and part of the extension that had been built was flooded when it rained. Indeed, some of the work that was completed before the hiatus needs remedial work before the building can be finished.

“I am pleased the council has accepted my recommendations to put things right for the family.”

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 family and pay them £10,500 to recognise the unsuitable conditions they were left in, and a further £250 for bringing their complaint. It will also pay for any remedial work that needs doing because the work was left unfinished for so long. It will also pay the difference should the work now cost more to finish.

Additionally it will also pay outstanding invoices for the child’s nursery fees which had initially been agreed as part of the Special Guardianship process, and continue to pay these till the child starts school later this year.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council has agreed to review how it considers complaints under the correct statutory process.

Article date: 12 May 2022