Council apologises to resident with epilepsy after ignoring warnings about his eviction

Ombudsman orders Barnet Council to pay resident £600 after the authority took 15 months to find him suitable accommodation, reports Grace Howarth, Local Democracy Reporter

Barnet Council's Colindale head office
Barnet Council’s Colindale head office

Barnet Council has been told to pay a resident with epilepsy £600 in compensation after taking over 15 months to place him in suitable accommodation.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found the council had delayed processing the resident’s homeless application and “failed to consider his medical evidence properly”. 

The council said in response officers had been trained on the code of guidance and law in relation to assessing homeless applications. 

They added: “We will work with our teams to ensure that correct processes are followed, and actions are carried out in a timely manner.”

In April 2021 the Barnet resident – referred to anonymously as Mr B – was given notice to leave his privately rented flat by October as his landlord wanted to sell. Mr B notified the council of this and was told to contact them again in August. 

Mr B did so and carried out an interview with the council in September and submitted a medical assessment form which included the fact he had epilepsy. Mr B told the council he required a carer to stay with him in case he had a fit overnight. 

The council contacted the landlord’s agent to see if it could provide a financial incentive for the landlord to extend the tenancy but was told this “wasn’t possible”. 

In October 2022 Mr B contacted the council as there was “no evidence” any further action had taken place and he said he had experienced daily eviction attempts. 

In December 2022 he received a possession order from the landlord to vacate the flat by the 15th which Mr B made the council aware of. The same month the council said it would contact Mr B when it found suitable accommodation. 

In January 2023 Citizens Advice Bureau contacted the council on behalf of Mr B confirming his medical issues. The same month the council issued a prevention duty letter and a housing plan. 

The watchdog considered the council had “sufficient information” in September 2021 to show Mr B was “threatened with homelessness” and in “priority need and eligible for assistance” and expected the prevention process to have begun then.

Instead it was not until 15 months later the council issued these documents, which was considered a “fault” by the ombudsman.

Between December 2022 and May 2023 Mr B lived in his flat until he was evicted from the property. The report noted if the council had issued its prevention duty letter in September a relief duty letter would have been issued in 2021, before Mr B was evicted. Relief duty was instead issued in June 2023, which was also considered a “fault”.

The watchdog said it appreciated Mr B wasn’t evicted until May 2023 but added the council did not know that in 2021 when the resident first received notice to leave the property by October. 

Mr B says following the eviction the council provided him with unsuitable accommodation in the form of a studio flat and then a bed and breakfast. He said these didn’t allow for a carer to stay overnight with him.

The council said when the offers were made it didn’t have evidence to show overnight care was needed, but the watchdog said Mr B had completed a medical assessment form in September 2021 while the assessment was not carried out until Jan 2023, 15 months later.

The report noted the council provided evidence in May 2023 to show it had limited temporary accommodation available, and what was available was unsuitable for Mr B’s needs or was needed by somebody with a “greater priority” than he had. 

However, the watchdog said if the council had carried out assessments in 2021 or 2022, as it “should have done” there would have been more opportunities to seek suitable accommodation before May 2023. 

Mr B has now been moved into suitable accommodation. 

The council spokesperson said: “We accept the decision of the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman and its recommendations in relation to this case. 

“We have apologised to the customer for the distress, uncertainty and frustration he experienced due to the faults identified in this decision. We take learning from complaints, be they directly received or via the LGSCO, seriously and are always seeking to use that learning to continually improve how we deliver our services.”

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