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Council rapped over treatment of pregnant woman who was made homeless

The London Borough of Tower Hamlets has agreed to consider service resources and “the changes it needs to make to work in line with the law” after a Local Government and Social Ombudsman investigation into how a pregnant woman, who approached the council for help when she was made homeless, was left in an unfurnished flat, miles from her support network.

The LGO said the woman was left in the flat for three months, and did not have a bed until she was awarded a grant a month into the tenancy.

She eventually moved into private rented accommodation three months after approaching the council when her father had given her notice to leave the family home..

During the Ombudsman’s investigation Tower Hamlets agreed to pay the woman a discretionary housing payment to cover the shortfall in her rent until January 2020, and to refund the deposit she paid for her private rental accommodation.

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The Ombudsman’s investigation criticised the council for not doing enough to prevent the woman’s homelessness, saying it delayed both assessing her and issuing her with a personalised housing plan (PHP).

The LGO also said the council:

  • did not review the assessment when the woman’s circumstances changed;
  • delayed providing her with interim accommodation;
  • did not consider the suitability of the interim accommodation it provided, or reconsider it when she asked it to;
  • did not do enough to help the woman find accommodation, “including delaying properly considering what financial support it could offer her, and making inquiries to consider whether it owed her the full housing duty”.

The council has agreed to:

  • apologise;
  • pay the woman £1,000 to recognise the time she spent living in unsuitable accommodation; and
  • consider service resources and the changes it needs to make to work in line with the law.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “In this case, because of the council’s faults, the woman was left in unsuitable temporary accommodation for three months, causing her unnecessary distress and anxiety at a time when she was most vulnerable. I welcome the efforts the council has made during our investigation to help the woman and hope its commitment to learn from its errors will help ensure other people are not affected in the same way in future.

“We are issuing this report in part because it highlights to other councils the duties they have under the new homelessness prevention laws, and the steps they can take to learn from the errors we have highlighted.”

A spokesperson for Tower Hamlets Council said: “We deeply regret the hardship caused in this case and we accept the findings of the Ombudsman’s investigation.

“The resident has now been supported to find appropriate accommodation but the council recognises that errors were made. We have apologised to her and taken steps to ensure that our processes are improved so that similar mistakes do not happen again.”

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