Eastbourne Borough Council has been fined £2,300 for its ‘aggressive gatekeeping’ when dealing with a vulnerable man’s homelessness application.
The Local Government Ombudsman ordered the council to pay up after it concluded that the council officers had broken the law and failed to follow their own policies.
‘Mr X’, who was physically ill, had mental health problems and been sectioned in the past, told the council he was at risk of being homeless.
His application was refused in June, but the council eventually accepted it had a duty to house him in September.
However, in the meantime, he had been evicted, slept rough and lost his possessions.
In a report released this week, the LGO said, “The Council failed to follow the law, correct process and its own policies when Mr X presented as threatened with homelessness and in priority need.
“It then failed to properly investigate his complaint. This caused Mr X a significant injustice.”
The Ombudsman has ordered the council to apologise to Mr X for the ‘fault and injustice, pay him £2,000 for the loss of his possessions, £200 for the distress at having to sleep rough for four days and £100 for his time and trouble in bringing the complaint.
The council has been told to provide refresher training for staff about homeless legislation, homeless policies and the complaints procedure.
An Eastbourne Borough Council spokesperson said, “We are sorry that in 2014 our service in providing Mr X with support and assistance to find alternative private accommodation fell below the required standard.
“We have apologised to Mr X and subsequently found him a new home. Over the past two years the service has gone through an extensive transformation programme which has included restructuring roles, comprehensive training, new technology and processes.
“Eastbourne Borough Council is fully committed to providing help, advice and assistance to vulnerable households at the risk of homelessness which is in line with best practice, the Code of Guidance and Homelessness Legislation.”
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