The Local Government Ombudsman has awarded a single mother £2,000 in compensation after the local council failed to fulfil its duty towards her. The woman first approached Liverpool City Council in March 2021, explaining that she had a 10-month-old child and was sofa-surfing. The Council failed to assess her situation for several months afterwards, despite the woman’s repeated requests for help. She contacted the council at least ten times, but received no meaningful response.
It was not until almost seven months later that the council accepted they had a duty to support the woman. She was provided with temporary accommodation, by which time she had become pregnant. The council did not fulfil its full homelessness duties until April 2022, over a year after the woman had first approached them. She was provided with permanent accommodation only on the day she went into labour with her second child.
The Ombudsman found that the council should have accepted their duty to house the woman at least as early as July 2021. It was impossible to know whether this should have taken place earlier, as the council had failed to investigate the woman’s circumstances when she first approached them.
Supported by the Vauxhall law Centre, she filed complaints with the council for their inaction. The council delayed here, too, not replying to the Stage Two complaint for 39 weeks. Siobhan Taylor-Ward, representing the woman, said ‘it feels very much like the system is just broken and the processes aren’t properly in place’.
The Ombudsman faulted Liverpool Council for the distress and uncertainty caused to the woman and her child, their failure to assess their case, and their continual lack of contact throughout the period of homelessness.
Local Councils are legally obligated to provide relief for people facing homelessness. This includes advice, support, and access to temporary and permanent accommodation.