Woman claims vulnerable son ‘wouldn’t be in jail if council provided accommodation’

A woman made a complaint to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman that her son wouldn’t be serving a prison sentence if Allerdale council had provided him with interim accommodation.

Mrs X made a complaint to the ombudsman about the decision to end its duty to provide her son, Mr F with interim accommodation between June and November 2020. She said the council failed to consider Mr F’s vulnerability and mental health issues while making its decision.

Mr F is currently serving time in prison and his mother said that this could have been avoided if the council had provided him with accommodation. She said the matter has caused him, her and the wider family distress and uncertainty.

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In April 2020, Mr F approached the council for a homelessness assessment. Records show the council recorded Mr F as having depression and anxiety and was obtaining help with mental health issues.

Allerdale Council accepted it had a duty of care, and Mr F was placed into interim shared accommodation. He was also issued with a Personalised Housing Plan (PHP) and a list of private landlords.

At the end of April 2020, the council issued a warning letter to all of the residents (including Mr F) living in the shared accommodation. The warning was around evidence the residents were breaching Covid-19 lockdown rules. In May 2020 the council sent Mr F a warning letter about breaching Covid-19 lockdown rules.

It has been noted that he failed to pay any of the services due charged since he moved into the property and the council received evidence from the police that Mr F was assaulted with a knife. During an inspection carried out by the council, they issued Mr F with a final warning letter and asked him to clean his room.

In June, an inspection was carried out of Mr F’s room and of the shared accommodation, however, it was noted that Mr F appeared to have left ad was not answering his phone. The council made several attempts to contact him and after failing to do so evicted him from the property.

In the same month, the council wrote a letter to Mr F explaining its decision, however, because it could not be delivered it was kept on file. After making contact with the council and them learning of Mr F’s vulnerable state, he was placed in interim accommodation at a hotel.

The ombudsman report explains: “At the end of September, the council received reports of an incident involving Mr F at Hotel 1. Records show the manager of Hotel 1 reported Mr F had shouted at and threatened another resident and was abusive to staff.

“The manager said the incident was on CCTV. One of the council’s homeless officers who were present also witnessed Mr F assault another resident. Case records show Hotel 1 wanted Mr F to leave.”

In October 2020, Mr F’s interim accommodation was ended at the hotel. Mr F was in the hospital the following day after taking an overdose following the eviction.

It was in November that Mr F’s mother, Mr X contacted the council expressing how unhappy she was that the council were no longer offering her son interim accommodation.

The report goes on: “Mrs X explained that Mr F had recently had a mental health diagnosis and that was the cause of his behaviour. Mrs X said this was a change of circumstances and that the council should reconsider offering him interim accommodation.

“Mrs X said she was concerned Mr F might harm himself if not offered accommodation. Records show the council told Mrs X that its decision stood but it would help Mr F with a deposit if he found private accommodation.”

Mr F was in custody on November 5. The council wrote to Mr F towards the end of November to inform him it owed him a main housing duty and would help provide him with temporary accommodation. Mr F, however, remained in police custody and is currently serving a prison sentence.

Mrs X was unhappy with how the council dealt with her son’s situation and complained to them, when they responded she still wasn’t happy with their response and she decided to contact the ombudsman.

The ombudsman concluded: “Mrs X complained about the council’s decision to end its duty to provide interim accommodation to her son, Mr F between June and November 2020.

“There was no fault in the council’s decision to end its duties during that period. The council was at fault for failing to provide Mr F with a letter about ending its housing duty and for including flawed information in a letter to him when he was evicted from a property in October 2020.

“However, those faults did not cause Mr F a significant injustice.”

A spokesperson for Allerdale Borough Council said: “We take our responsibilities regarding homelessness seriously and provide help and support to some of our most vulnerable people on a daily basis.

“Any support we provide is in accordance with our statutory duties as well as local policies and protocols. We also work closely with any partners where necessary. When providing homelessness accommodation, we have to take into account the needs of everyone concerned including the individual, other tenants, as well as hotel and other staff. We would not take any decision if we thought it would result in harm to anyone, including the individual concerned.

“We are always willing to learn and improve our services for our residents. In this particular case, the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) found no fault in our decision to end the interim support we were providing. We accept the LGOs finding with regard to some of our processes in this case, and we have reviewed and amended our practices accordingly. The LGO found that these faults did not cause any ‘significant injustice’.”

Lancs Live – Cumbria