Local authorities have been urged to ensure their homelessness procedures are ‘fit for purpose’ after Ombudsman found significant fault with a Northamptonshire district council’s treatment of a disabled woman.
An investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGO) into a homelessness complaint from a woman in the Kettering area found the council had not offered—or even made her aware—of her legal right to have a review of her temporary accommodation.
The LGO found Kettering Borough Council had even failed to offer her this right when she told them the house was unsuitable because she couldn’t access the upstairs bathroom or bedrooms due to her disabilities.
A lack of secure storage for her mobility scooter also resulted in it being damaged and the battery stolen.
‘People in temporary accommodation have a legal right to a review of that accommodation, and ultimately to have that review considered by the courts. But they can only follow this process if councils tell them about their rights in a timely manner, as statutory guidance dictates,’ said LGO Michael King.
Responding to the LGO’s findings, Kettering BC said: ‘Kettering Borough Council accepts the findings of the Ombudsman’s report and, in doing so, has formally apologised to the customer and paid the suggested compensation sum of £500.
‘The council has also reviewed its procedures and standard documentation for the management of applications from homeless households to ensure that the procedural errors that have been identified in the report are not repeated.’
‘While I am pleased Kettering Borough Council has already amended its letters to residents, I would urge other authorities to look at their correspondence to ensure people’s review rights are made clear,’ Mr King continued.
‘Complaints are a learning opportunity for councils, and this is one all councils in England can learn from to improve their services.’