Council apologises for putting family in home where neighbour threatened to stab mum and kill son

Cllr Anne Meadows, chairman of the council's housing and new homes committee, has apologised to the family
Cllr Anne Meadows, chairman of the council's housing and new homes committee, has apologised to the family

Brighton and Hove City Council said lessons had been learned after an Ombudsman found it had placed a mother and son in ‘thoroughly unsuitable accommodation’.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) said the mother and her autistic son were caused ‘severe distress’ after they were placed in temporary accommodation for two months below a ‘nuisance neighbour’ who had previous warnings for anti-social behaviour.

The LGSCO said at the first viewing the mother knew the flat would not be suitable – as she heard a lot of noise from the flat above.

But the council told the pair they would not be provided with another flat if they refused – despite the fact the son’s severe autism meant he was particularly sound sensitive, with loud noises causing him acute stress and anxiety.

The LGSCO said after an advisor contacted the council on the mother’s behalf, the council carried out a suitability assessment and decided the property was not suitable. The mother said the tenant in the flat above swore frequently and made a lot of noise. The flat also did not have enough room for the son’s sensory equipment.

While the family was waiting to move from the flat, the mother reported noise nuisances and in one instance her neighbour threatened to stab her and kill her son, the LGSCO said.

The family finally moved into more suitable accommodation two months after moving into the flat.

Michael King of the LGSCO said: “This family were caused significant stress being placed in thoroughly unsuitable accommodation by the council, and at one point they were even split up because of the neighbour’s poor behaviour.

“While I appreciate the strains councils are under to find the right accommodation, particularly in areas of high property prices, they still need to ensure the suitability of the accommodation they are offering.

“I now call on the council to revisit the report and provide the remedy I have recommended to the family.”

After the report was published today (July 18), the council has apologised to the mother and son.

Cllr Anne Meadows, chair of the council’s housing and new homes committee, said: “We fully accept the Ombudsman’s findings and recommendations. We’re extremely sorry for the distress caused in this case and have apologised to the family involved.

“We’re taking action to ensure lessons are learnt from the mistakes made in this case and procedures are improved.”

The council said the complainant has been paid £750 to recognise the injustice caused by its decision to leave her and her son in unsuitable temporary accommodation between July and September 2016.

It has also paid £100 for the six months it took to reimburse storage charges and a further £150 to recognise the time and trouble caused by its delay and poor handling of her complaint.

The family moved to a permanent council home in September 2016.

The report by the LGSCO will be considered by the council’s audit and standards committee on July 24 and the committee will make a formal response to the Ombudsman.

Cllr Meadows added: “There is a shortage of temporary housing in the city and, while it is no excuse, there was particular pressure at the time of the complaint was made. A total of 180 homes we leased from a private landlord were no longer available to us and staff were working to find new homes for families from all those properties.”