Teenager left to sleep rough during Covid crisis 'failed by council'

A local authority was charged with failing to accommodate a teenager who slept restlessly and surfed on the sofa for two months during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Local Government and Welfare Ombudsman found that the Medway Council had failed to fulfill its duty to assist the 16-year-old from Kent and his mother in the summer of 2020.

The guard dog said that when the family became homeless for the first time, the council said they were under no obligation to house them, but rather housed them temporarily.

But in July, child care workers asked her to leave, made the family homeless, and forced them to live in a tent. This contradicted government lockdown policies that required landlords to work with tenants who were in trouble.

An ombudsman spokesman said: “The mother has been in contact with the council throughout July. In early August, she filled out a change of circumstances form stating that she and her son had been on the street for several weeks.

“There is no record of any action taken by the council after receiving the form. In early September, with the help of Shelter, the mother contacted the council to say that she and her son had been homeless since July 13th.

“The council told the mother that she would not provide her with temporary accommodation and that she should find her own private rental accommodation.”

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The family were eventually moved to a bed and breakfast on September 11th after the Ombudsman asked the council to carry out an urgent review and they were eventually offered a two-bedroom property.

Michael King, Ombudsman for Local Government and Social Welfare, said, “Our research into problems emerging during the pandemic must weigh the difficult circumstances and the speed with which laws are changing against what should reasonably have happened.

“In this case, despite these challenging circumstances, the Council has failed to fulfill its obligations to a vulnerable teenager who has slept poorly and has missed numerous opportunities to make sure he is safe.

“However, I applaud the swift action taken by the Council in bringing the family’s situation to its attention, and I hope that the training it has arranged for the relevant staff should ensure that such cases occur in the future no longer occur.

“From what we’ve seen so far, the issues in this case are not an indication of how the councils generally responded to public concerns during Covid-19. However, we decided that this case contained sufficient learning for others to consider.

“Some of the issues in the case reflect issues we saw before the pandemic, but which were compounded by the effects of Covid-19.”

The council has since agreed to apologize to the teenager and the mother, paying them £ 1,500 each for their “hardship” and an additional £ 200 for the mother to reflect that their repeated inquiries have not been heard .

A Medway Council spokesman “fully accepted the recommendations of the local government ombudsman” and apologized.

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