East Lindsey District Council has been asked to review its housing allocations policy to ensure it meets its equality duties, following an investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman looked at the council's policy after a couple complained they had been barred from joining the housing register because they did not have a connection to the area. This was despite wanting to provide care to an elderly relative who lived there.
The Ombudsman's investigation found the council policy did not meet the requirements of the Public Sector Equality Duty. This is because the policy does not consider the needs of people with disabilities when excluding caregivers from qualifying for a local connection.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “While councils have some freedom to decide the criteria on who qualifies for their housing register, they must also act in line with legal requirements in the Housing Act 1996, and cannot disqualify whole groups of people who would otherwise have priority.
“In this case the problems I have found meant the couple missed the opportunity to have their application considered properly. And because there is a high number of older people living in the district, this may have also unfairly affected other people too.
“I am pleased the council has agreed to examine its policy in light of my findings and reconsider the couple’s application.”
In this case, the council has been asked by the Ombudsman to apologise to the couple and reconsider their application.
The watchdog also recommended East Lindsey review its allocation scheme then identify and review cases since October 2019 where it has refused applications on similar grounds.
East Lindsey's Assistant Director for Housing and Wellbeing, Michelle Howard, said: “We are in the process of reviewing and amending our Housing Allocations Policy in light of the complaint that was received and the Ombudsman’s finding to allow people to move to the area to provide support in some circumstances.
"We have a high demand for properties in the area and the Policy provides the framework for how the allocations are made, including the prioritisation to those most in need.
"We have apologised to the complainant and have committed to reassess their housing register application in line with the revised policy. We are also contacting any other applicants impacted by the Policy position to invite them to request a reassessment of their application.”