A North London council has been forced to make payouts totalling more than £75K over the past three years following a number of upheld complaints, the latest data reveals.
In one case alone, it had to give £27,000 in compensation to a family with a disabled son who was left ‘in pain and humiliated’ after unsuitable accommodation meant he had to ‘crawl up the stairs’ to use the bathroom.
The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) has upheld complaints against Brent Council 56 times since 2020, across multiple departments, costing it £77,120. The largest combined payouts have been for homelessness cases, which total £43,250.
This is predominantly made up by just two cases. One from May of this year when a disabled woman was awarded £9,200 after being left ‘effectively homeless’ after being provided a home that wasn’t wheelchair accessible. The second is the £27,000 payout to the family with the disabled son in 2021.
At the time of the case, the family were homeless, meaning Brent Council had an obligation to provide them with accommodation. Back in 2012, they were put in temporary housing in a three-storey home. However, the son’s disability affected his mobility so he was unable to go upstairs.
The downstairs toilet was not wide enough for the boy’s wheelchair, which he claimed meant, if his dad wasn’t home to carry him, he had to drag himself upstairs to the bathroom. He described this as ‘humiliating’ and there were times when he didn’t make it in time.
Following two surgeries in 2015 and 2016, the boy’s mobility improved to the point he could walk short distances indoors with crutches, however, he still needed to use a wheelchair outdoors. By 2021, the family had still not been moved into appropriate accommodation.
After the family complained, the subsequent investigation by the LGO ruled in their favour. Brent Council apologised and were required to pay £27,000 for the injustice caused, as well as continuing to pay them £200 a month until a suitable home was found.
Other departments that made sizeable payouts during this period are housing allocation (£8,600) and alternative education provision (£8,300). In 2021 the council saw the most number of upheld complaints (23), which was also the year with the largest total pay out (£38,650).
The year with the next highest number of upheld complaints was 2022, which saw 19 cases costing the council £18,950. However, 2023 has already seen compensation payments totalling £17,900 from just eight cases and there are still six months left of the year.
Neighbouring borough Harrow has also had 56 complaints against the council upheld, with the Special Educational Needs department seeing the largest total payouts (£9,500). The local authority has had to pay £23,515 in compensation for these, more than a third less than Brent.
Brent Council suggest this can be explained by the borough’s population being 35pc higher than Harrow, which puts extra pressure on public services.
Leader of Brent Council, Cllr Muhammed Butt, said: “Our aim is always to minimise the number of complaints we receive. Compared to the three years before 2020, the number of complaints upheld in Brent has reduced by 15 percent.
“Brent, like the rest of London, is in the grip of a housing crisis. As well as austerity, rising costs and inflation have placed even more pressure on our housing services. Despite this, we have successfully moved 1,212 families out of temporary accommodation into suitable housing since July 2020, and are doing everything in our gift to increase the supply of genuinely affordable housing, including for disabled people. Brent provided more homes than any other council in the country last year and is also proudly the highest social housing builder in London.”
He added: “However there are a small minority of cases where the high standards we set ourselves have slipped. For these we have wholeheartedly apologised and accepted full responsibility. We have also reviewed and altered our processes to prevent any issues from reoccurring.”