THE WORKING poor have now become the working homeless, as nurses, teachers and firefighters are among those being thrown out of their homes by bailiffs and then left languishing in squalid B&Bs and hostels by the local councils, a new Ombudsman’s report has exposed.
The special report by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman Michael King is aptly entitled, ‘Still No Place Like Home’. It shows that in 2016-17 nurses, taxi drivers, hospitality staff and council workers were amongst those who desperately contacted his office after being made homeless.
They turned to his office for help after the council left them languishing in squalid and unsafe temporary accommodation. Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: ‘The increasing cost of private rents has meant we have seen a shift towards more people in professions such as nursing, and their families, becoming affected.
‘Many of these families are being placed in poor quality accommodation, for periods significantly longer than the six-week legal limit. And we’re seeing signs the problems are growing more acute, particularly with an increase in the length of time families are having to stay in temporary accommodation.
‘More worrying still, we are finding that many families are not being told of their review rights when placed in unsuitable accommodation, so they have no information on how to challenge the decision and improve their circumstances.’
King was particularly critical of local authorities he had investigated that re-housed homeless families in damp, filthy and dangerous temporary homes. You do not have to look to Victorian fiction to see totally Dickensian housing conditions,’ he said.
In the report King sites a number of examples:
• A couple with two young children who spent 26 weeks in a single room in a B&B. Although they reported that the shower did not work and the room was infested with cockroaches, the council failed to ensure repairs were made.
• A mother whose baby had type 1 diabetes was placed in a dirty and unhygienic B&B room without access to cooking facilities. The baby contracted an infection and ended up in hospital. The hospital blamed the housing, saying the mother was unable to properly feed her baby.
• A disabled single parent with four children was put up in B&B accommodation for nearly two and a half years after her benefits were capped. The council ignored letters from medical professionals outlining concerns that living in the property was affecting the family’s health.
In 2016-17, the Ombudsman received around 450 complaints about homelessness.
Of those it investigated in detail, it found fault in seven out of ten cases.