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London council to review how it looks after families in overcrowded temporary accommodation following Ombudsman report

Croydon Council has agreed to review its services to homeless families in temporary accommodation after a mother had her complaint upheld by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

The mother had been living in a bedsit with her four children throughout the pandemic but, despite the London borough acknowledging she was overcrowded, it did not do enough to review how suitable her accommodation was or offer additional support, the watchdog found.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said the mother had told the council in her complaint of the troubles her family faced being cooped up in a single room, especially during the COVID-19 lockdowns, with the lack of space for the children to play and do their homework.

The mother was also recovering from cancer which left her weak and caused her difficulty accessing her flat.

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“Despite this the council did not review the suitability of the family’s temporary accommodation, or even ask for further information about the impact the living conditions were having both on the mother and her children,” Mr King said.

“I am pleased the council took action during my investigation to offer the family a suitable property, and hope the steps it has agreed to take will ensure other homeless families are not left in the same situation.”

The family was offered alternative accommodation during the Ombudsman's investigation.

In light of the Ombudsman's investigation, the council agreed to apologise to the mother and arrange suitable alternative temporary accommodation for her.

It will also pay her £300 a month for the period between January 2021 and when it makes her an offer of suitable alternative accommodation. It will pay her a further £200 to acknowledge the time and trouble in having to complain to the Ombudsman and will refer her to its Children’s Services department to see what additional support it can provide for the family.

In addition, the council has agreed to review its policies and procedures for reviewing the suitability of temporary accommodation along with its policy for referrals between departments when supporting overcrowded families.

A spokesperson for Croydon said: “We sincerely apologise to this family, who were left in an unsuitable and overcrowded home for far too long. The family have now been rehoused and we are in contact to assess any further support they might require from our children’s services team.

“We fully accept the LGO’s recommendations for the council, including agreed compensation. We are now looking to strengthen our processes for reviewing housing suitability and sharing information across different teams as a priority.”

Adam Carey

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