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Mother placed in children’s school hours wins £3,000 for ‘significant injustice’ – South London News

By Robert Firth, Local Democracy Reporter

A mother received £3,300 from a council after placing her in an apartment so far from her children’s schools that one of them had to leave the house at 5am every weekday.

A Local Government Inquiry The People’s Advocate found the mother-of-four, known only as Mrs X, had to pay £83.40 a week commuting between the flat and Lewisham.

Her children had to take two buses and a train to get to their schools in the south-east London borough, according to the ombudsman’s ruling on March 26.

The family were placed in temporary accommodation outside the borough by Lewisham council after Mrs X became homeless in August 2022.

But within a month of moving into the flat, Ms X expressed concern about the negative impact the long commute to school was having on her children, particularly her autistic son. After repeated complaints, the council accepted it accommodation she was found unsuitable three months into her stay in October 2022.

Lewisham did not move Ms X and her family to a flat closer to the children’s schools for another eight months. Meanwhile, her eldest son failed his SATs and Ms X said her mental health deteriorated.

She also claimed that her Crohn’s disease worsened during her stay in the apartment. Her hospital was in Lewisham and Mrs X had to make long weekly journeys there for treatment. The family was finally moved to another house in June 2023 after 10 months in the “unsuitable” apartment.

The ombudsman’s report said Lewisham council was at fault for delaying moving the woman into suitable alternative accommodation and said she and her family had been caused “significant injustice”.

The council’s communication with Ms X was described as “poor” and the ombudsman said she had seen evidence of repeated unanswered emails she had sent to the council asking for an update on the case.

Living outside the district also meant that Mrs X was unable to access early help intervention from the council where her temporary accommodation was located as she was unable to return in time from collecting the children to use the service.

A Lewisham council spokesman said: “We accept the ombudsman’s decision in this case and apologize to the resident for the disruption caused.

“We always try to allocate temporary housing within the neighborhood, but this is not always possible due to various factors, including the limited availability of suitable housing and the need to prioritize cases according to urgency and vulnerability.

“There are 11,000 households on our waiting list for social housing and we currently house around 2,700 households in temporary accommodation. Each situation is assessed individually and decisions are made based on the specific circumstances involved.

“We encourage residents to engage directly with us to resolve any concerns they may have about their temporary accommodation.”

Top image: Lewisham Council headquarters in Catford (Image: Google Street View)



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