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Harrow man with ‘hypersensitivity to noise’ awarded £500 by council

A man with severe mental health problems and a learning disability has received a payout from Harrow Council after being left in housing that caused ’bouts of agitation’ because the council wrongly deemed him not to be eligible for support.

The North London man was living next to a pub after being released from hospital where the loud noise ‘triggered his challenging behaviours’.

An investigation by the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) found that Harrow Council was at fault for delays processing the resident’s application and for not considering his situation as a ‘vulnerable person threatened with homelessness’. The man’s family had complained that the situation was affecting his wellbeing and causing them ‘additional worry and upset’.

The Ombudsman ordered the council to pay the family £500 for the ‘distress and worry’ caused by the uncertainty about their housing situation and to apologise for not properly considering the man’s housing applications. The Ombudsman said the delays caused the family ‘further worry and uncertainty’.

Mr Z, as he is referred to in the Ombudsman’s report, was detained in hospital on mental health grounds in 2021, before being released into the care of his family in Harrow in June 2022. Mr Z was predominantly cared for by one family member, referred to as Mr X, but this was difficult as his ‘extremely challenging’ behaviour was made worse by the noise from a pub next door and a lack of space.

Mr X requires a ‘high level of care and support’ to meet his complex needs, according to the LGO report. The family had applied for housing whilst Mr Z was in hospital but the council said it could not be accepted because Mr Z ‘did not have the mental capacity’ to make the application himself.

A social worker from Harrow Council’s adult social care team visited the family after Mr Z’s release and noted his ‘hypersensitivity to noise’, which could trigger behaviours including aggression. The adult social care manager raised this with the housing manager and expressed concern that Mr Z’s housing application had been closed.

The social worker asked that the application be reopened so Mr Z could get urgent support in moving to more suitable accommodation. The council concluded that he was not able to make the application himself and it could not allow another person to sign a tenancy on his behalf but an eligible family member could do so on his behalf.

However, the council’s system automatically assessed the application and sent a letter concluding that they ‘did not have priority’ and would not be able to bid for accommodation. The family’s landlord then issued an eviction notice on the property forcing them to make a homelessness application, which the council closed after concluding that they hadn’t been provided with enough information.

The situation worsened in the lead up to Christmas 2022, forcing the family to apply for emergency accommodation over the festive period. Mr Z was offered a property ‘some distance’ outside the borough as there was none suitable in Harrow. He had to turn this down as it was too far away from family support and the adult social care team wouldn’t be able to arrange a care package outside the borough at such short notice.

The application was ultimately rejected after officers decided that they were not homeless because they could live abroad in a property owned by other family members. The investigation ultimately found the council at fault for the delays and not assessing the applications thoroughly enough.

The Ombudsman stated: “Mr Z has a disability and is clearly, in my view, a vulnerable resident in need of the council’s support because his current accommodation is unsuitable for him. But I do not consider the council properly reflected [on] how it could put its aim and ambition into practice in the delivery of its service in response to the applications for help with Mr Z’s housing needs.”

A spokesperson for Harrow Council said: “We are sorry for the distress caused set out in the Ombudsman’s findings. We have apologised to the household and offered compensation of £500. We accept the recommendations of the ombudsman, [and] lessons learnt from this have been factored into future assessments.”

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