Hackney Council forced to apologise to single mum and pay £1,300 for refusing to accept she was homeless

Hackney Council has been forced to apologise over failing to help a homeless single mum find housing

Hackney Council has been forced to apologise over failing to help a homeless single mum find housing. Picture: Isabel Infantes - Credit: Archant

Hackney Council has been forced to apologise to a single mum and offer her a payout after bungling her homeless application.

The council failed to treat the woman, named only as Miss X, as homeless when she applied to join the housing register in 2016, according to the ruling.

This led to the mum and her young son living in bed and breakfast accommodation for longer than they should have.

The Local Government Ombudsman, which investigated the case, said the council was at fault.

Hackney has agreed to apologise and pay the woman £1,300, the ruling says.

The council will also carry out a review of procedures.

The mum, who suffered from debilitating migraines and had doctors’ letters to support this, was forced to live in unsuitable accommodation for two years due to the council’s failings in handling her case.

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She had been sofa-surfing while pregnant when she first sought housing support in 2015 but was not accepted as homeless as the council said she failed the residency test.

This requires all applicants to have lived continuously in the borough for six of the previous 12 months or three of the last five years.

The ombudsman said it could not rule on this complaint as it was over the statutory time limit.

But the investigator said the woman’s application form and medical evidence “were sufficient to trigger the council’s duty to treat her as potentially homeless” when she sought help again in 2016.

It could have provided her with more suitable alternative accommodation sooner if these failings had not occurred, the ruling said.

Due to this Miss X spent six months longer living in unsuitable accommodation than she should have.

She was then moved to a B&B out of the borough and spent 16 weeks there, with her son forced to live elsewhere for some of this time.

This breached a law saying families should not spend more than six weeks in B&B accommodation, the ruling said.

Miss X told the ombudsman the mistakes had affected her and her son’s health and had “a significant impact on their quality of life”.

The investigator said it was only Miss X’s persistence in involving the Mayor of Hackney that led the council to look properly at her case.

“My concern arising from this case is that genuine homelessness cases could be missed by the council’s systems,” said the ombudsman.

“The council has agreed to review its procedures in this area and provide me with a written report explaining what it has done to prevent this in the future.”

Hackney Council said it was conducting an internal review to find out what had happened in this case.

Cllr Rebecca Rennison, cabinet member for finance and housing needs, said: “We always prefer to provide families with a modern, stable council home.

“But with Hackney facing an unprecedented housing crisis and a continued lack of action from government, bed and breakfast accommodation is often the only way of supporting those in urgent housing need while they await a more suitable place to call home.

“We always listen to individual circumstances and are sorry that in this case the family was let down by being put in bed and breakfast accommodation for too long, and are now conducting an internal review to see how this happened.

“We have worked closely with the resident in this case to provide temporary accommodation for her within Hackney – we now have 3,000 households in temporary accommodation waiting for a permanent home.

“While we are determined to do all we can to support and meet the needs of homeless families as best we can, this is yet another example of London’s unprecedented housing crisis and the national government’s continued failure to tackle this.”