Redbridge Council to compensate families illegally housed in B&Bs for eight months

Ilford High Road. Picture: Ken Mears

Ilford High Road. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

Redbridge Council has apologised for housing two families in B&B accommodation for longer than the legal limit of six weeks.

It has been forced to pay thousands of pounds in compensation and admits that the “service they received fell below acceptable standards”.

One family of five, with children aged 11, 14 and two, who became homeless in May 2016, had to stay in two rooms in a B&B outside of the borough.

One child did not have a bed and the rooms were on separate floors, which forced the parents to sleep apart to ensure their children were safe overnight.

When another room became available next door, the family request to have it was refused by the council “due to the paperwork involved”.

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There was no internet, which meant the 14-year-old struggled to complete homework which was issued online.

When the parents split up and the dad moved out, the whole family then had to sleep in just one room.

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And the council told the mother she would “have to stay like that for a while.”

In July 2016, she was offered a room in Canterbury, which she refused due to its distance from London and the impact it would have on her children’s lives.

And in February this year, the family moved into their own flat after the council acknowledged they shouldn’t have been stuck in the B&B for so long.

Another family of five, including a son with autism and learning disabilities, were placed in a single room in a privately-owned building with strangers, on the other side of London.

Because of the child’s disabilities, a property closer to Redbridge was deemed not suitable as the family would have to use a communal kitchen and bathrooms.

The family claimed the room was causing their son’s medical condition to worsen and affecting both his, and therefore the rest of the family’s sleep patterns.

They alerted the council to damp, poor mattresses and rats and mice entering the room, just two months after moving in.

After an inspection the local authority agreed it was not suitable.

In April, the family moved to a two-bedroom flat slightly closer to the borough, eight months after the council placed them in the single room, and six months after they agreed it was unsuitable.

Michael King, local government and social care ombudsman, said: “Our investigations point to these two families being part of a wider problem in Redbridge with numbers of families spending too long in temporary accommodation.

“However, the council appears to be making steps to reduce the problem and to act on my recommendations to put things right for the two families.”

The report also noted that these cases “are part of a more widespread fault as the council also has many other families who have been in unsuitable accommodation for months, seemingly including families in B&B for over six weeks”.

Now it will pay the first family £2,200 and the second family £2,300 to recognise their distress and the time they were left in unsuitable accommodation.

Councillor Farah Hussain, cabinet member for housing, said the council has committed to ensuring no families with children are placed in B&Bs for more than six weeks by the end of March 2018.

She said: “We know that we have more work to do to further improve the accommodation available to our residents when they are most in need, and we will continue to innovate as we strive to meet this goal.”

In order to prevent these evictions, the council says it will move towards a more proactive way of helping residents who are at risk of homelessness.

Over the past year, the council says the housing service prevented homelessness for 1,857 households who approached it for advice and assistance.

Soon, families who are at risk of being evicted will be able to seek support through Work Redbridge and be referred for casework with the aim of keeping their home.

And in a bid to improve its temporary accommodation stock, Redbridge Council recently purchased St Georgio Hotel, Cranbrook Road, Gants Hill.

At the time a council spokesman told the Recorder that “the acquisition will provide better standard temporary accommodation and will also make a saving against the cost of privately sourced accommodation, particularly bed and breakfast accommodation which is often a considerable distance from Redbridge.”

Cllr Hussain added: “In common with all London boroughs we are under increasing pressure due to the rising numbers of homeless households who are in need of temporary accommodation and the lack of availability of suitable temporary accommodation from the private sector market in the capital.

“In Redbridge, we have very little social housing stock and an increasingly competitive private rented sector, so we have needed to develop new and innovative ways of meeting demand.”

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