A pensioner couple have been awarded almost £7,000 in compensation after the council housed them in a B&B for 18 months during lockdown.
The couple were put in the single room with just a microwave, mini-hob and mini-fridge after becoming homeless.
Meanwhile, the council ruled they were only eligible for one-bedroom permanent accommodation, despite their request for a home with two bedrooms because of their “multiple, chronic” health problems.
According to a local government and social care ombudsman report, reviews of both this decision and the suitability of the B&B emergency accommodation took far too long to process.
And the ombudsman inspector said: “the delay in this case was not an exceptional or one-off occurrence” among council cases.
Geraldine Des Moulins, chief executive of Possability People said: “Over the past year, Possability People received over 150 enquiries about housing, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
“For each of these enquiries, there is a person or family who are struggling, isolated, or whose health is terribly impacted by their situation”
The ombudsman report states that the council accepts that Mr X’s emails should have been treated as a request to review the accommodation, but that the officer at the time focused on their need for an extra room rather than more adequate longer-term accommodation.
It says: “The council has already accepted our recommendation to draw up an action plan to reduce the backlog and the time taken to make review decisions. It has assigned officers to work on the backlog and agreed to give regular progress updates to councillors.”
The report identifies that the council failed twice: first in overlooking the guidance that B&B use is only for short-term accommodation.
Also, the council did not take action when the husband, named in the report as Mr X, raised concerns, which should have been treated as a request for a review and reconsideration.
The council was subject to make an apology to the couple and pay £1,950 to recognise the distressing impact caused by the situation and reimburse £4,784.28 in storage charges.
The report says the couple (both clinically vulnerable with chronic medical conditions) had an increased risk of covid infection from staying in a hotel with many other homeless residents.
Mr X told the council twice that the B+B was unsuitable for these reasons, and raised concerns about not being able to shield in shared accommodation.
The couple submitted medical reports from consultants and GPs about their medical conditions and the need for separate rooms.
However, he was told that the only emergency accommodation was similar to, or even less suitable than the current hotel room.
When Mr and Mrs X were rehomed in April 2021, they had already been in the B&B for 18 months.
According to the Ombudsman’s report, the couple only accepted the offer of a one-bedroom housing association property “because they were desperate to move out of the bed and breakfast hotel.”
When the report was published, Mr X still disagreed with their decision to not recognise the couple’s need for a two bedroom property on medical grounds.
A Brighton & Hove City Council spokesperson said: “The council provided interim accommodation for this household pending their nomination into permanent social housing.
“We acknowledge the LGSCO’s recommendations and have complied with their findings. We have apologised to the household for the time taken to review their circumstances and find accommodation suitable to their needs and we recognise the difficulties this has caused them.
“We have reviewed our policies and procedures to ensure we learn from this case.”
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