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Ombudsman rules Bromley Council at fault for delay over homeless family

PUBLISHED: 07:00 23 January 2020

Bromley Council has apologised. Picture: Steve Poston

Bromley Council has apologised. Picture: Steve Poston

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A mother of three who was allegedly assaulted while awaiting a council decision on her homelessness application has had her complaint to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman upheld.

The Ombudsman ruled that Bromley Council failed to act quickly enough when the woman applied to be deemed homeless, in a bid to be re-located to a new home away from a former abuser.

The Ombudsman's report says the woman, whose three young children all have mental health issues, first applied as homeless to the council in January 2018.

The woman, whose name is given as "Miss D", told the council she had to leave her housing association property due to a former abuser living nearby.

She was interviewed by a council officer and advised to ask the housing association to transfer her to a new property, remaining at her current property in the meantime.

She next called in May 2018, saying she had been assaulted at the home in an incident that her three children had witnessed.

Council officers requested emergency interim accommodation, finding a two-bedroom, top floor flat.

The family moved in, however the mother said the home was unsuitable for the family of four and causing stress and behaviour problems with her children, as well as difficulties in taking them to school.

It wasn't until March 2019 that council issued a decision accepting that she was homeless and offered the family temporary accommodation, saying it would make her a direct offer of a three-bedroom home when one became available.

In ruling, the Ombudsman said the council was not at fault in placing the family in a two-bedroom property, as it was not overcrowded by law.

However, the Ombudsman found fault with the delay in making a decision on Miss D's homelessness application.

"Although there is no statutory timescale, it took the council a year to make a homelessness decision. This is more than seven times longer than recommended in the Code and is fault," the report states.

He added there was no evidence the council had researched whether Miss D would be at risk from violence if she remained at the original property.

The council subsequently informed the Ombudsman it would apologise for the delay, and make an offer when a suitable property becomes available - which the Ombudsman ruled would "remedy the injustice caused".

In a statement, a spokesperson for Bromley Council said: "The council apologises for any inconvenience caused to Miss D by its delay. We were unable to source a suitable three-bedroom house as requested by Miss D despite considering 14 properties and had to offer a two-bed instead. We are glad the Ombudsman found no fault with the council in this. We have agreed to make a direct offer as soon as a suitable property becomes available."

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