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Family with autistic children to get nearly £5,000 after Haringey Council put them in B&B

 (LDRS)
(LDRS)

A watchdog has ordered Haringey Council to pay a family nearly £5,000 following a “failure” to provide suitable temporary accommodation.

A report by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found the council was at “fault” over its handling of the family’s stay in temporary accommodation.

The family comprises two adults and three children, a son in year seven during the time of the complaint, a younger son who is autistic and non-verbal and a daughter who shares the same disability.

But the council was unable to find alternative temporary housing for the family after their landlord evicted them.

The family were instead placed in emergency bed and breakfast (B&B) accommodation for four months, with the council saying it was down to the “significant shortage of available accommodation” at the time.

Following an investigation the ombudsman recommended the council apologise to the family and pay them £4,600.

In response to the report Sarah Williams, cabinet member for housing services, private renters and planning, said: “We will absolutely learn lessons from the Local Government Ombudsman’s findings and recommendations and have apologised to the family for the mistakes made.

“Whilst we appreciate that hotel accommodation is not ideal, at the time the family became homeless there was no suitable fixed, self-contained accommodation available.

“We moved as quickly as possible to secure settled accommodation, which I hope the family is happy with.”

B&Bs are any type of temporary accommodation where there are no cooking facilities or shared cooking or washing facilities – and in most cases means living in cheap hotels.

The ombudsman’s report noted, referring to the government homeless guidance for local authorities, that “wherever possible, the use of B&B accommodation should be avoided”.

The report stated this accommodation could be “particularly detrimental to the health and development of children” and was “not suitable for families to occupy”. This accommodation should be used for families “as a last resort” and then “only for a maximum of six weeks”.

The family were placed in B&B accommodation for 18 weeks between early April and August 2023, which represented a “service failure” by the council.

The family moved between five different branches of one hotel chain, representing seven moves during the time period, averaging nearly one move every two weeks.

One hotel the family was placed in was outside the borough containing the younger son’s school. The child – referred to anonymously as Y – had an education, health and care  plan (EHCP) and council policy states “priority” should be given to provide temporary accommodation “within the borough where an applicant’s children have special education needs and attend a school in the borough”.

The ombudsman noted this along with “instability” caused by the regular moves placed the family “at a particular disadvantage”.

The lack of “sufficient regard” to perform its “duty under the Equality Act to prevent indirect discrimination” to the two autistic children was also classed as a failing.

The family eventually moved into suitable private sector accommodation in early August 2023.

The report noted the council was taking “positive steps” to end its reliance on B&B accommodation using its “action plan”.

Cllr Williams added: “There is a chronic shortage of family-sized accommodation in the borough and last year alone we received 4,400 homelessness applications, one of the highest in London.

“That’s why we have an extensive plan in place to help us address the increases in demand and reductions in supply, so we rely less on hotel accommodation.”