Council failings led to woman recovering from cancer being ‘cooped up’ in room with her four children
A mother-of-four recovering from cancer was “cooped up” with her children in a single room during the coronavirus pandemic due to council failings, an Ombudsman has found.
The woman, referred to as Miss X, was housed in a studio flat as temporary accommodation in 2014 after presenting to Croydon council as homeless, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGO) said.
In early 2021, she complained to the council that the home was too small now that she had four children, including a baby, and said the situation was affecting her mental health.
She said the lack of private space was causing the family “severe stress and anxiety”, particularly during the coronavirus lockdowns, and her eldest child had no quiet space for online lessons or schoolwork.
Despite acknowledging she was living in overcrowded accommodation, Croydon council failed to properly review the suitability of the flat or offer any additional support, the Ombudsman investigation found.
It also failed to consider whether the overcrowding in Miss X’s property was an environmental health risk, the report said.
Since the investigation started, the south London council has offered the family alternative temporary housing, and has pledged to review the services it provides to homeless families in temporary accommodation.
Ombudsman Michael King (pictured) said: “In her complaint to the council, the mother shared 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.
“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.”
He said he is pleased the council took action during the investigation and hopes the steps it has agreed “will ensure other homeless families are not left in the same situation”.
The council has agreed to a set of recommendations, including to apologise to Miss X, pay her £200 for the time and trouble of having to complain to the council and Ombudsman, and pay her £300 a month between January and its offering her suitable alternative temporary accommodation.
It also agreed to refer Miss X to children’s services to see what extra support the family can receive.
A council spokesperson 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.”
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