Ombudsman finds Merton Council at fault for not considering his work status
A Merton man was forced to lose his London-based job after being given temporary accommodation 140 miles away in Birmingham.
An investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found that Merton Council was at fault because it did not take into account the man’s employment status when making the offer of accommodation so far away.
The man, who has not been named by the Ombudsman, was working two jobs to support his family.
He claims he told council officers this when he asked for help back in October 2017, but the council says it has no record of this.
The Ombudsman found evidence that the man told the council he was finding it hard to keep up his job a month later, but the council did not consider moving him closer to his employment.
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 costs 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.”
Merton Council has been asked by Mr King to review the way it places people in temporary accommodation.
A spokesperson from Merton Council said: “We accept the findings of the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman in this case and would like to take the opportunity to apologise to the resident concerned.
“We have complied with the Ombudsman’s ruling in full and have reviewed our procedures in line with the recommendations made.”
And now Liberal Democrat councillors are calling for a review of all residents who have been housed outside of London in the past two years.
Councillor Paul Kohler said: “We need urgent action from Merton Council to make sure that mistakes like this cannot happen again. This must include a review of everyone who has been housed more than 90 minutes away to see if they have been similarly affected.
“But we need to go further and investigate why we are housing people so far from their relatives and friends in the first place. Moving families to places where they know no-one is hugely stressful and disruptive and Merton should be avoiding doing so whenever possible.”
By Tara O'Connor, Local Demcracy Reporter
August 28, 2020