Croydon mother's 10-month housing delay an 'injustice'

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe woman had a 10-month wait for a home

A council which left a mother and her three young children without a suitable home for over 10 months has been criticised by an ombudsman.

A government code demands councils complete inquiries about homeless cases within 33 working days.

But it took Croydon Council more than five months, the Local Government Ombudsman found. The woman does not want to be identified by name.

The council said it had apologised and agreed to pay compensation to her.

Knife to throat

The independent body found Croydon Council responsible for "maladministration causing injustice".

The woman had to leave her home in April 2010 after three men broke in and assaulted her with a hammer and held a knife to her throat.

Describing the attack, she said: "I was pregnant at the time. I was beaten badly and hit in the head with a hammer and I subsequently lost the baby.

"My other half he was stabbed repeatedly in front of me."

In June 2010, the police confirmed to the council that she could not return home.

That month she was offered a third-floor room in bed and breakfast accommodation.

It had no lift and she had two children in pushchairs.

'Sofa surfing'

She also had concerns about broken furniture and loose wires hanging from the walls, the report said.

"I have never seen anything like it in my life," she told BBC London.

After she raised objections, she had to phone the council 27 times between June and October to find out what was happening with her application.

The council accepted a duty to house her on 7 October and she was accommodated by February 2011 - 10 months after her initial inquiry.

Ombudsman Dr Jane Martin criticised the number of different case workers and the lack of alternatives given instead of B&B accommodation, which is supposed to be a "last resort" for families.

The mother said that "sofa surfing" between various friends with three children in tow had left her finding it difficult to cope.

Croydon has the most acute temporary accommodation problem in London coupled with high levels of homelessness.

'Encouraging' report

This year, the council had to keep 285 families in temporary B&B accommodation for more than the legal limit of six weeks - the highest figure in London.

Hannah Miller, executive director for adult services, health and housing at Croydon Council, said following the report steps had been taken including recruiting permanent staff to reduce the reliance on temporary ones.

She said: "In the last 12 months we have received more than 2,200 homeless applications and placed 1,470 households in temporary accommodation."

She added: "Despite the high caseloads, it is important that we undertake our assessment process properly in all cases."

Solicitor Jane Pritchard, who represents at least 10 people who have been kept in temporary accommodation in Croydon longer than they should have been, said she found the report encouraging.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites