A COUNCIL has been reprimanded for failing to complete its duty towards a homeless family that was not given shelter for months.
The Local Government Ombudsman, which investigates complaints against public authorities, found that Slough Borough Council had failed to provide temporary accommodation quickly enough to an unnamed woman and her family – including her epileptic son.
The revelations have emerged in a council report to its audit and corporate governance committee, which was due to meet last night (Thursday).
The woman also had a husband and an adult daughter.
The complainant had applied to the council as homeless in July 2014, having been evicted from her mother’s council house after she had passed away.
In October 2014 the council accepted a full duty to secure accommodation for the woman as a homeless person under the Housing Act 1996, however it was not until February 2015 that the family were temporarily housed.
The council report to their audit and corporate governance committee said: “This delay of four months should have been avoided as it is the legal duty of the council to have provided temporary accommodation suitable to their needs once we accepted the duty.”
The Ombudsman also found that SBC did not clearly explain how it considered the woman’s case when it decided not to put her name on its housing register for exceptional circumstances in April 2015.
The woman did not qualify to go on the housing register as a result of a number of housing-related debts and proven rent arrears from a number of landlords.
However, the homeless charity Shelter – which represented the woman – asked SBC to use its discretion in making the decision because of the son’s epilepsy and the family’s intention to file for bankruptcy.
The woman had written in her complaint in late 2015 that her son suffered from epilepsy requiring 24-hour care and was awaiting brain surgery.
Shelter says the council was aware of the son’s medical circumstances and should have taken them into account.
The Ombudsman found there had been maladministration with injustice – the highest finding that can be made.
The council has agreed to pay the woman £1,000 in compensation to “recognise the injustice caused to her through its delay in offering her temporary accommodation”.
Since 2016 there has been five other complaints with the same finding with a total of just £790 paid out.
The woman still disagrees with the council’s decision not to admit her to the housing register for exceptional reasons and the Ombudsman has ruled that this disagreement should be put to SBC’s Housing Needs Panel within the next month.