Merton Council has agreed to pay more than £1,700 in compensation to a man who had to give up one of his jobs because the authority gave him accommodation in Birmingham – leaving him with a three-hour commute.
An investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found the London borough at fault because it did not consider the man’s employment status when making the offer of accommodation so far away.
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.
The Ombudsman 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 has now found accommodation in the capital with the help of a council deposit scheme.
In this case, 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.
Merton Council has said it will also remind relevant staff of the need to consider the council’s policies when placing a homeless person or family.
A review of its placement policy will take place to set out what factors it will consider when placing a self-employed person in interim or temporary accommodation.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “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.
“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.”
Merton Council has been contacted for a statement.