Disabled mother left struggling after being put in first-floor housing by Redbridge Council

A disabled mother said she was left struggling to access her kitchen, bathroom and front door after her needs were ‘disregarded’ by Redbridge Council.

The woman – referred to only as Ms X – complained to the Ombudsman service that she had not been involved in the development of a personalised housing plan.

She said the “unnecessary distress and frustration,” on top of living in “unsuitable accommodation,” had impacted on her mental health and her young child’s wellbeing, according to a report from the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

The service, which independently investigates complaints against organisations, ruled that the council was at fault and had caused her ‘injustice’.

In the summer of 2021, Redbridge accepted a ‘homelessness duty’ for Ms X, under which it was obliged to find her a suitable home.

She was told by the authority in August that she would be offered first-floor accommodation. Though she initially raised concerns about its suitability due to her medical needs, she accepted the offer.

In October, Ms X emailed the council to ask for a review of the property. She told them that using the stairs was “very difficult and painful,” the Ombudsman said, but her emails went unanswered for five months.

In April 2022, the council decided the accommodation was in fact not suitable for her needs and that she needed ground-floor accommodation.

She remained in the same accommodation until November – a total of 13 months after sending the initial email – as there was “nothing suitable,” the council said.

In the end, Ms X was offered temporary ground-floor accommodation by a local charity, which she and the council accepted.

The Ombudsman ruled that, after deciding Ms X’s accommodation was unsuitable, Redbridge should have moved her to suitable accommodation in line with its duties under the law, which it did not do.

The investigator wrote in his report: “The council says it was not able to provide Ms X with suitable housing because of the housing crisis and a resulting lack of properties. This is service failure.”

The authority also acknowledged to the Ombudsman that, had an officer replied earlier, they would have likely identified the issue in November 2021.

The complaint was brought to the Ombudsman in February 2023 and a decision was issued in early 2024.

The Ombudsman also ruled that the council’s failure to reassess her housing plan after deciding it owed her a ‘main housing duty’ – to keep her housed after the relief duty expired – constituted fault.

Redbridge accepted this and will issue Ms X a fresh housing plan “in due course,” with the Ombudsman adding: “This is positive, but the council should not delay issuing this plan.”

After the decision was issued in January, Redbridge agreed to apologise to Ms X for keeping her in unsuitable accommodation, failing to reassess her case after it decided her accommodation was unsuitable and to provide her with a personalised housing plan.

On top of this, Ms X was awarded £3,200 from the authority: £250 for each month she spent in the accommodation between November 2021 and November 2022, and £200 for causing her uncertainty over the housing plan.

In March, the council committed to a “deep dive” into its services after receiving more than 4,000 complaints in 2022/23.

The Ombudsman received 97 complaints about Redbridge Council between April 1 2022 and March 31 2023.

Thirty cases were to do with housing, followed by 16 about highways and parking, and 13 regarding regeneration.

It upheld 27 of 33 cases in favour of the complainant, but did not pursue the majority.

Of those 4,000 complaints, the vast majority did not progress past the first stage, when a council officer will work to resolve the issue over the phone.

Redbridge Council did not provide a comment in time for publication.

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Sebastian Mann

Local democracy reporter