Bexley Council slammed by Ombudsman for excluding dad's son from his homeless application

Father and son enjoying and showing their love holding hands. The image is on white background for easy editing
The authority was told to pay the dad £200 for the distress caused (stock image) -Credit:Siro Rodenas Cortes / Getty

Bexley Council has been warned after excluding a dad’s son from his homelessness application. The authority was criticised by the Local Government & Social Ombudsman for its handling of a homeless application and having no documentary evidence of its decision making.

A recent report stated that a father enquired about making a homeless application for him and his son with Bexley Council’s housing options service at the end of April 2023. The dad, named Mr X in the report, said the authority’s children’s social services (CSS) department advised him to make the application.

Mr X was reportedly staying in an Airbnb with other lodgers at the time. He told the council he shared care responsibilities for his son with their mother, Ms Y, who was facing eviction. CSS were said to have sent an email to the council’s housing options department in support of this.

The dad then provided relevant documentation and completed an application form at the housing department’s request and a telephone appointment was arranged in May. Shortly before this time, Mr X’s son began living with him full time as Ms Y’s health had deteriorated. CSS reportedly explained the situation to the housing options department and said urgent housing was needed for the dad as his current accommodation was not suitable for his son, called C in the report.

READ MORE: SEN transport, agency staff and £8k placements - how Bexley overspent by £13m in children's services

Bexley Civic Offices in Bexleyheath
The council had said the son 'regrettably' could not be included in the application -Credit:Google Earth

Mr X told the council that the CSS department had provided the father and son with temporary accommodation. CSS also explained to the housing options department that Mr X had applied to the court for a child arrangement order and CSS had significant concerns about Ms Y’s parenting capacity given the child protection plan in place for C. The housing department was asked by CSS to review the matter.

The report said: "Housing Options responded saying C would not be included in Mr X’s application. CSS asked why this decision had been made. The following day CSS sent a further email to Housing Options asking for the reasons behind its decision. Housing Options responded stating that, as far as it was concerned, C was reasonably expected to live in his mother’s accommodation."

The housing options confirmed C would not be considered as part of Mr X’s homeless application, despite CSS emphasising that C’s mother could not care for him due to her mental breakdown. Mr X then made a complaint in June about the lack of housing support he and his son had received and about the conduct of a housing officer following the telephone assessment he had, during which he claimed they were rude and patronising towards him.

Bexley Council responded by saying it did not have a record of the phone call but the officer said they did not mean to cause Mr X any upset and denied being intentionally rude or unhelpful. The authority acknowledged the dad’s parental responsibility for his son but that following many conversations with professionals involved in C and his mother’s care, his son ‘regrettably’ could not be included in the homeless application. The ombudsman claimed the council had no evidence of such conversations taking place in the period leading up to June 2023.

The authority reportedly later called Mr X to offer support in searching for a private rented property. Mr X was then said to have become agitated and claimed he did not want to proceed with his homeless application if C could not be included. The council then closed the case.

The dad contacted the council a month later and the court then made an interim order for C to live with Mr X after Ms Y was admitted to hospital. The authority accepted a duty to Mr X and his son was included on his homeless application.

The ombudsman said in their report that the authority was at fault for providing no contemporaneous documentary evidence of its decision making and for failing to advise the dad on the reasons for its decision. They also criticised the communication between housing officers and children’s support service, calling it 'inadequate'.

The council was instructed to send a written apology to Mr X and pay in £200 in recognition of the distress caused to him. A Bexley Council spokesperson told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the authority would not comment on individual cases.

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