Council slammed after forcing elderly disabled couple to live apart for months
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Local Government and also in Communities, Housing
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A council has been slammed by the Local Government Ombudsman after failing to provide an elderly disabled couple with suitable accommodation - which forced them to live apart for months.
The couple approached Newham Council after being made homeless by their landlord but were told the only temporary accommodation available was in Birmingham - 130 miles away.
With both husband and wife suffering severe mobility problems, the couple refused the offer and instead split up and stayed with relatives in east London.
The council eventually found the couple temporary accommodation in a neighbouring borough, but the man was unable to move in because he could not climb the 14 steps to access the flat and had to live with other relatives.
The flat had no shower, and as the woman could not use a bath she was forced to strip wash instead for the 10 weeks she lived there.
After the family involved a solicitor who threatened legal proceedings, the council managed to find the pair suitable accommodation.
The LGO has recommended the council pay the couple £750 to recognise the distress and hardship they and their family have suffered.
The local authority has also agreed to remind its staff who deal with homelessness to issue clear decision letters and will undertake random sampling to make sure this is done.
It has additionally been told to review its working practices to ensure that it offers priority appointments to applicants who are elderly or disabled and have a confirmed eviction date and improve its procedures for assessing the suitability of accommodation for people with disabilities.
Dr Jane Martin, Local Government Ombudsman, said: “This family was given Hobson’s choice when it came to accepting the accommodation they were offered. They had the choice of something unsuitable or nothing at all.
“While I appreciate the difficult circumstances some councils find themselves in with the lack of availability of emergency accommodation, authorities do need to make sure that the accommodation they offer to people is suitable for their needs.”