Mum placed in flat hours from kids’ school wins £3,000 for ‘significant injustice’

By Robert Firth, Local Democracy Reporter

A mum has been awarded £3,300 from a council after it placed her in a flat so far away from her children’s schools that one of them had to leave the house at 5am every weekday.

An investigation by the Local Government Ombudsman found the mum-of-four, known only as Ms X, had to shell out £83.40 per week, commuting between the flat and Lewisham.

Her kids had to take two buses and a train to get to their schools in the South East London borough, according to the ombudsman ruling dated March 26.

The family were placed in temporary housing outside the borough by Lewisham council after Ms X became homeless in August 2022.

But, within a month of moving into the flat, Ms X had raised concerns about the negative impact the long commute to school was having on her children, particularly her autistic son. After repeated complaints, the council accepted her accommodation was unsuitable three months into her stay, in October 2022.

Lewisham didn’t move Ms X and her family to a flat closer to the kids’ schools for another eight months. In the meantime, her eldest son failed his SATs exams and Ms X said her mental health deteriorated.

She also claimed her Crohn’s disease worsened during her stay in the flat. Her hospital was in Lewisham and Ms X had to make long weekly trips there for treatment. The family were finally moved to a different home in June 2023 after 10 months in the ‘unsuitable’ flat.

The ombudsman report said Lewisham council was at fault for delaying moving the woman into alternative suitable accommodation and said she and her family had been caused ‘significant injustice’.

The council’s communication with Ms X was branded ‘poor’, and the ombudsman said it had viewed evidence of repeated unanswered emails sent by her to the council asking for an update on the case.

Living outside of the borough also meant Ms X could not access early help intervention from the council where her temporary accommodation was located because she could not make it back in time from collecting her children to use the service.

A Lewisham council spokesperson said: “We accept the ombudsman’s decision in this case and apologise to the resident for the disruption caused.

“We always try to allocate temporary housing within the borough but this is not always possible due to various factors, including limited availability of suitable housing and the need to prioritise cases based on urgency and vulnerability.

“There are 11,000 households on our social housing waiting list, and we currently house around 2,700 households in temporary accommodation. Each situation is assessed individually, and decisions are made based on the specific circumstances involved.

“We urge residents to engage with us directly to resolve any concerns they may have about their temporary accommodation.”

Pictured top: Lewisham council’s headquarters in Catford (Picture: Google Street View)

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