William Eichler 27 August 2020

London council criticised for housing man in Birmingham costing him a job

Merton Council has been criticised for housing a man from London in Birmingham, forcing him to give up his second job.

An investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found the London Borough of Merton to be at fault because it did not take into account the man’s employment status when making the offer of accommodation.

The man worked two jobs to support his family and says he told officers he was working when he asked for help in October 2017. The council says it has no record of this.

However, Ombudsman Michael King found evidence the man had told the council about difficulties he was having maintaining his employment in November 2017, but the council failed to consider moving him closer to his employment.

‘The man told the council his jobs could not be done from the Midlands. Unfortunately, he had to give up one of his jobs, and faced increased travel cost to get to the other. Had the council listened to the man’s concerns, it is likely he would not have been placed so far away from his work,’ said Mr King.

‘I have previously talked about how the pre-conceived ideas of homelessness no longer ring true, and we’ve seen people in work come to us with complaints about their councils’ housing support. This is another example of the kind of problems experienced in today’s housing situation.

‘I have asked the council to review the way it places people in temporary and interim accommodation, and hope other working homeless people will not be placed at such a disadvantage in the future.’

The council has agreed to apologise and pay the man a total of £1,768. This is made up of £1,200 for placing him in unsuitable accommodation, £418 in travel costs and a further £150 for his time and trouble in bringing the complaint.

A spokesperson from Merton Council said: ‘We accept the findings of the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman in this case and would like to take opportunity to apologise to the resident concerned. We have complied with the Ombudsman ruling in full and have reviewed our procedures in line with the recommendations made.’

The man has now found accommodation in the capital with the help of a council deposit scheme.

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