Bristol City Council has been found by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman to have failed a vulnerable homeless family, which included disabled young children, in its handling of their homeless application. Successive errors by the housing and social services departments meant that the family were forced to move between hotels, without any stable accommodation, for 3 years. The Council were heavily criticised in the Ombudsman’s decision, which can be found here: https://www.lgo.org.uk/information-centre/news/2018/apr/homeless-family-left-to-live-in-hotel-rooms-for-three-years-by-bristol-city-council-ombudsman-finds. The case has been since reported by the Victoria Derbyshire Show at the BBC. As a result of the complaint the family have now been accommodated and can move on with some much-needed stability. The Ombudsman has recommended that the family be offered £9,000 in compensation given the severity of the council’s failings.
The case is a reminder of the complex difficulties of homelessness experienced by so many across the country. This family’s circumstances are unlikely to be unique. An increase in homelessness generally against the backdrop of decreasing budgets for local housing authorities has sadly resulted in many such cases where homeless households, which can often include the most vulnerable members of society, are let down or simply turned away by their local council. Such treatment if routinely unlawful, and could give rise to a legal challenge. It is important that the conduct and decision-making of local authorities is challenged when it falls short. It is equally important that these cases are reported and discussed, as only then can we expect proper, lasting change to be affected.
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