William Eichler 10 September 2020

Council apologises for leaving disabled dad in ‘mouse-infested’ house

A London council has apologised after leaving a disabled dad and his family in mouldy, mouse-infested temporary accommodation for three years.

An investigation launched by the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman in 2017 found that Enfield Council had delayed reviewing the suitability of the accommodation it offered to the family.

When the review was carried out, the council found the home was not suitable for the family. The father had difficulty accessing the property and managing his personal hygiene. The property also had severe mould issues, a mice infestation and a faulty toilet.

The council said it would provide the family with alternative accommodation. However, it failed to do so, prompting a second investigation by the Ombudsman.

The investigation found the council at fault for not having a housing procurement policy in place detailing how it would meet expected demand. It also found fault with the way the council handled complaints and disrepair problems at the property.

‘The law doesn’t allow councils to leave people in unsuitable accommodation just because it can’t find anything suitable. It should have enough housing,’ said Ombudsman Michael King.

‘In this case it had a significant impact on the family – the father slept on an airbed downstairs and was forced to use a commode as he could not access the bathroom safely. He could not live with dignity, and he was unable to take part in normal family life, putting his children to bed or look after them if they woke in the night.

‘I’m pleased the council has accepted my recommendations, but it should not have taken a second investigation by my office to put things right properly for this family. I hope the changes it will now make will ensure others are not affected in the same way in future.’

The family was eventually provided with a new home by a local housing association in August 2020.

An Enfield Council spokesperson said: ‘We would like to apologise to the family for the delay in securing a property that met their needs and the distress this caused the family. We are pleased to now confirm that the family has been allocated a suitable home.

‘Since this case was first raised, Enfield Council has taken wide ranging measures to tackle the severe homelessness pressures in the borough and the shortage of affordable, accessible housing, which are exacerbated by a lack of sufficient funding from the government.

‘We have introduced a new Housing Advisory Service to support residents at an earlier stage and are taking steps to increase the amount of private rented accommodation available to residents through the establishment of an ethical lettings agency. We are also pursuing ambitious plans to building thousands of new accessible and affordable homes in the borough.’

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