A Shropshire man was homeless for too long because Shropshire Council did not understand its responsibilities towards him, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.
The man approached the council when he became homeless in the autumn of 2021, and he was provided with interim accommodation. However, the man soon moved out as he said he was unable to stand properly and in pain because the ceilings were so low. The council made no further offer of interim accommodation, even though it later told him it could have done if asked.
The man moved to live in his car, with no access to facilities, and spent some time living in a garage over the winter.
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman investigated the man’s case after he had been through the council’s complaints process.
The Ombudsman’s investigation found the council did not review the suitability of the interim accommodation when the man complained. This meant the man missed out on a chance to have been offered an alternative.
The investigation also found that once the council had accepted its main housing duty to the man in January 2022, it wrote to him but did not offer him any temporary accommodation. This meant he was homeless for much longer than he should have been had the council acted properly.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:
“This case has highlighted a concerning lack of understanding at Shropshire Council of its statutory duties towards homeless people in the county.
“Where a council has a duty to provide accommodation it should make a written offer, specifying an actual place of accommodation. Sending a letter which simply accepts it owes a duty is not enough – it should then go on to make an offer of accommodation.
“I look forward to the council accepting the recommendations I have made in my report, and hope when they are put in place that other people in the county are not left in such distressing circumstances.”
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman remedies injustice and shares learning from investigations to help improve public, and adult social care, services. In this case the council should apologise to the man and offer him suitable temporary accommodation under its main housing duty.
It should pay him £500 for the distress and uncertainty he was put in, and a combined £3,500 for the time it failed to provide suitable accommodation between October 2021 and July 2022.
The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council should provide training or guidance to its housing team to ensure they understand its duties to provide accommodation under the Housing Act.
Shropshire Council has been approached for a comment.