A family who fled domestic violence and were placed in unsuitable housing which left them at risk of further violence have finally been rehoused, three years after first approaching the council for help.
Two children, five months, four hotels - and no cooking facilities
The woman, referred to as Ms B to protect her identity, approached Birmingham City Council (BCC) in January 2019 to say she was at risk of homelessness, because she needed to leave home along with her two children because of domestic abuse.
Between leaving her home in August 2019 and January 2020, the council placed her in four different hotels as temporary accommodation.
None of the rooms had cooking facilities, which the Ombudsman noted was unsuitable and led to increased food costs.
Birmingham City Council has noted throughout that the issues faced by Ms B are largely down to wider problems with the availability of suitable social housing and cuts to local government.
After being placed on the council’s move list the following month Ms B was offered a flat, which she moved into within a few weeks, but began experiencing issues almost immediately.
Over the next few months issues began to arise with a neighbour at the property, culminating in an incident which saw police called.
Following the incident, Ms B spoke to the council and said she feared she would be subject to further abuse and violence if she were to stay at the property.
An entire year passed before the council eventually acknowledged that Ms B was unsafe in July 2021, but it wasn’t until after a referral from the police about her safety in September that the council offered Ms B temporary accommodation in a hotel.
Having already spent a long challenging period in temporary accommodation, Ms B turned down the offer of a hotel.
The Ombudsman noted that this decision was “understandable given her previous experience” and added that the council “should not replace one type of unsuitable accommodation with another”.
‘It affected every part of their lives’
Prior to the Ombudsman’s ruling, the council had apologised and accepted fault following a complaint from Ms B, but offered no other remedy and said it could only currently offer temporary accommodation.
At the time it said that despite the police referral, it “did not find her to be in exceptional need”.
When the report was published in December 2021, Ms B was still in the flat where police said she was at further risk of violence.
In its report, the Ombudsman said: “The injustice the unsuitable accommodation caused Ms B and her children was significant. It affected every part of their lives and seriously affected their mental health and wellbeing.”
The council was ordered to pay a total of £8911 to the family, including £1000 for each of Ms B’s children and £5,411 to her “in recognition of the period the family spent in unsuitable accommodation”.
As well as this up-front compensation, the council was also ordered to pay the complainant £250 per month until she was rehoused in suitable accommodation.
A spokesperson for Birmingham City Council told NationalWorld that Mrs B has now accepted an offer of better-suited housing and has moved into her new home.
They said: “As agreed we have paid Ms B compensation in recognition of the period her family spent in unsuitable accommodation. This case highlights the pressure that Birmingham City Council is under in seeking to meet the housing needs of our citizens.
“We have already taken steps, including additional resources, to address the shortage of temporary accommodation in the city; and we will be updating the Ombudsman on the progress of our temporary accommodation shortages plan of action by April 2022.”