Tower Hamlets did not do enough to help family facing homelessness in the borough

London borough of Tower Hamlets did not do enough to help a family who were about to be evicted by their landlord, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found.

The family’s landlord served them with an eviction notice in November 2021, so they contacted the council for help. But instead of taking action to help the family, it did not respond properly.

As they had nowhere else to go, they had to stay put. The father was disabled, and the extended family struggled to find another suitable property.

The Ombudsman’s investigation said the council did not meet its duties when the family first contacted it. The council should have had reason to believe the family were eligible for housing assistance and therefore provided them with interim accommodation, but it did not do so.

As a result, the family spent many months not knowing how or when the council would help them. They were eventually evicted by bailiffs, had to ask friends and family to look after their belongings, and spent several months in bed and breakfast accommodation away from their support networks and health services. The family eventually moved to self-contained accommodation.

Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, Ms Amerdeep Somal said:

“This case clearly demonstrates how vital it is for councils to follow the correct process at the earliest opportunity to achieve the best possible outcome for vulnerable families at risk of losing their homes.

“Instead, Tower Hamlets relied on gatekeeping their services – and not acting until the family’s situation was desperate.

“As a result, the family tell me they had to face the humiliation and indignity of being evicted by bailiffs from their home, and the embarrassment of having to ask friends and family to look after their belongings until they were properly housed.

“I am pleased London Borough of Tower Hamlets has agreed to my recommendations and hope the lessons that can be learned from this case will prevent this happening to others.”

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman remedies injustice and shares 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 a combined £1,355 for the uncertainty, worry and avoidable costs incurred.

It will also decide whether it owes the family a main housing duty and review their priority on the housing register. It will back-date any additional priority to October 2022 when it should have made a main housing duty decision.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council will share a summary of the learning from the case with all officers who deal with homelessness decisions to ensure lessons are learned. It will also remind relevant officers of their duties to homelessness applicants and the steps they need to take. It has also agreed to provide evidence of the action it is taking to source interim accommodation in its area.

Article date: 13 May 2024

LGO logogram

Review your privacy settings

Required cookies

These cookies enable the website to function properly. You can only disable these by changing your browser preferences, but this will affect how the website performs.

View required cookies

Analytical cookies

Google Analytics cookies help us improve the performance of the website by understanding how visitors use the site.
We recommend you set these 'ON'.

View analytical cookies

In using Google Analytics, we do not collect or store personal information that could identify you (for example your name or address). We do not allow Google to use or share our analytics data. Google has developed a tool to help you opt out of Google Analytics cookies.

Privacy settings