Upheld complaints by ombudsman against Redbridge Council

Redbridge Council was told to compensate three residents £1,000 or more during the last financial year.

The largest payout was £7,000, awarded to a woman left in a dangerous flat, and the total amount paid out was £15,100 between 15 residents.

The size of each payout was decided by the Local Government Ombudsman, which investigated 34 complaints about the council between April 1 last year and March 31 this year.

The ombudsman found 28 of the complaints were legitimate. This means 82 per cent of complaints were upheld, compared to an average of 70 per cent for similar councils.

Redbridge Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which decides how NHS funding is allocated in the borough, was also told to compensate one woman £1,750 after a complaint involving the council.

Left homeless by council

The council was ordered to pay £2,000 to “Mrs B” and £1,000 to her daughter in November last year after refusing to house them together, which led to Mrs B being homeless.

Mrs B’s family home, where she had lived with her daughter and grandchildren for three years, was repossessed in February 2018.

Mrs B was told her daughter and grandchildren, one of whom was seriously ill, were not part of her household because they had lived apart previously and they would not be housed together.

She and her husband sofa-surfed until August, when they were placed in a hostel, while her daughter was given emergency accommodation before being housed by social services.

During June, the council’s social services department repeatedly asked the housing department to house the family together, as the grandchild was due to have a kidney transplant.

The ombudsman called it “perverse” for the council to say the households were separate.

He added: “If the council had dealt with the case properly in February 2018 it is unlikely the family would have been split and moved to different areas.v“I consider that a serious injustice, particularly as during that six month period Mrs B’s granddaughter had a kidney transplant.”

Child’s school changed without warning

A woman identified as Mrs X was awarded £1,550 in compensation in October last year after the council moved her son to a different school “without her knowledge and against her wishes”.

Mrs X’s son Y has autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) but attended a mainstream primary school with help from a Learning Support Assistant.

In January 2018, the school asked the council to pay for extra support as they were concerned about his progress. The council refused and decided to move Y to a specialist school.

Mrs X and her husband were told at the start of the summer holidays that Y would move school next term. They tried to contact their case worker but did not receive a response.

Mrs X refused to send him to the specialist school and tried to get him placed in another mainstream school. In the meantime, the council arranged two hours a day of home tuition.

Y was finally placed in a new school, with one-on-one support, in January 2019 and the council offered Mrs X £1,000 in compensation for the four months he was home-schooled.

The ombudsman noted: “I find that the council failed to take account of the parents’ views and wishes, keep them informed and involve them in decision-making, as required.

“The council’s offer does not take account of the anxiety, distress and inconvenience Mrs X experienced as a result of the poor handling of her son’s case.”

Leaving family in dangerous flat

The council was told to pay Miss X £7,000 in February after failing to pursue enforcement action against her private landlord, leaving her and her children in a dangerous flat.

Miss X contacted the council in 2017 about problems with her flat, which had serious mould issues, a dangerously faulty boiler and sometimes no hot water or heating.

After trying to get the council to enforce against her landlord or move her for more than two years, Miss X paid for a private assessment, which proved the flat was “not fit for human habitation”.

She left the flat and moved into a hotel, which she paid for. She told the ombudsman her belongings had been destroyed by the mould.

The ombudsman noted medical evidence showing Miss X’s children suffered health problems linked to issues in the flat.

The council was ordered to pay her £6,500 for the injustice caused by the unsuitable accommodation and a further £500 for failing to house her when she became homeless in 2019.

Complaint involving the CCG

During the same financial year, the ombudsman also told the CCG to pay £1,750 in compensation to Mrs A, following a complaint involving the council.

The complaint, investigated in July last year, involved the two bodies collectively failing to provide proper educational support for her daughter Miss B, who has long-term health issues.

Miss B’s education, health and care plan, agreed by the council in 2015, stated she needed individual physiotherapy sessions three times a week, but these were not arranged.

In November 2016, Mrs A began paying for private physiotherapy and complained to the council about the 60 weeks of treatment not received.

In January 2017, the council apologised, agreed to find an independent physiotherapist and, in August that year, paid Mrs A £3,000 to cover the cost of the sessions.

In addition to the compensation, the CCG was instructed to reimburse £6,120 for what she spent on private physiotherapy for her daughter.

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter