William Eichler 19 July 2018

Council fined for causing autistic child ‘severe distress’

Brighton & Hove council has apologised after a mother and her autistic son were caused severe distress due to their temporary accommodation placement.

The mother and son were placed below a neighbour who had previous warnings for anti-social behaviour, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGO) found.

The LGO’s investigation also revealed they were placed in the unsuitable accommodation by the council after it told them they would not be provided with another flat if they refused.

Ombudsman Michael King found there was lots of evidence provided by professionals that the son’s autism meant he was particularly sound sensitive, with loud noises causing him acute stress and anxiety.

‘This family were caused significant stress being placed in thoroughly unsuitable accommodation by the council, and at one point they were even split up because of the neighbour’s poor behaviour,’ Mr King said.

‘While I appreciate the strains councils are under to find the right accommodation, particularly in areas of high property prices, they still need to ensure the suitability of the accommodation they are offering.

‘I now call on the council to revisit the report and provide the remedy I have recommended to the family.’

Cllr Anne Meadows, chair of the council’s housing and new homes committee, said: ‘We fully accept the Ombudsman’s findings and recommendations.

‘We’re extremely sorry for the distress caused in this case and have apologised to the family involved. We’re taking action to ensure lessons are learnt from the mistakes made in this case and procedures are improved.’

The council paid the mother £1,000 in recognition of the injustice of the decision, as well as to cover expenses.

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