Two single mothers were left in bed and breakfast accommodation for many months longer than they should have been by the London Borough of Ealing, the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) has found.
In the first case, a woman and her nine-year-old son and seven-month old baby were forced to live in bed and breakfast accommodation for a total of seven months while the council found her suitable accommodation. Throughout her stay, she was led to believe she would not be allowed any visitors because the council’s policy was not clear.
In addition, because the council neglected to tell her about temporary parking permits, the woman often had to park far away from the accommodation, or wait in her car till after 8pm when the parking restrictions ended.
In a second case, a woman and her 14-year-old son had to live in bed and breakfast accommodation for 10 months and had to put many of her possessions into storage. The family shared facilities with strangers and often had to go to friends and family to avoid using them.
Dr Jane Martin, Local Government Ombudsman said:
“This is another example I have seen of local authorities neglecting their statutory duties by housing families inappropriately in bed and breakfast accommodation. We recently issued a national report, which provided best practice guidance for councils based on complaints that raised similar issues.
“The pain and distress this causes to families with children, and young people in particular, is immeasurable. The damage caused due to a lack of safe and suitable housing is often wide reaching and likely to have a far wider cost to public services and the taxpayer in the long term than the cost of housing these families in suitable accommodation.”
To remedy the situation, the council should apologise to both women in writing and produce a temporary accommodation strategy specifying the steps the council will take to comply with statutory guidance to make sure that this does not happen again.
The LGO has also recommended that the council pays the first woman £1,750 for the inconvenience caused by being given incorrect information about permits and visitors, and for being in unsuitable accommodation for seven months.
The second woman should receive £2,000 for being left in unsuitable bed and breakfast accommodation for 10 months, and £1,260 for the cost of storing her possessions for 14 months.
Article date: 05 December 2013