Housing

Londoner forced to give up job after council houses him in Birmingham

Merton Council has agreed to apologise and pay compensation to the man, as the local government ombudsman pins the findings as hope that discrimination against working homeless people will end

Housing

Merton Council will pay compensation to a homeless man forced to quit his job after they would only house him three hours away in Birmingham – in what could set a crucial precedent for ‘working homeless’ people.

The man was working two jobs to support his family when he went to the council for support in late 2017 because he was struggling to hold down work with such a long commute.

An investigation by the local government and social care ombudsman found the local authority did not take into account the man’s circumstances when offering him accommodation so far away, nor did it consider moving him closer to his jobs when he asked for help.

The ombudsman said he hoped this outcome would mean “other working homeless people will not be placed at such a disadvantage in the future”.

The London Borough of Merton has agreed to apologise to the man as well as paying him £1,768 in total – made up of £1,200 compensation for placing him in unsuitable accommodation, £418 to cover the increased travel costs he was landed with and a further £150 for his time in bringing the complaint.

Michael King, local government and social care ombudsman, said: “The man told the council his jobs could not be done from the Midlands. Unfortunately he had to give up one of his jobs, and faced increased travel cost to get to the other. Had the council listened to the man’s concerns, it is likely he would not have been placed so far away from his work.

“I have previously talked about how the pre-conceived ideas of homelessness no longer ring true, and we’ve seen people in work come to us with complaints about their councils’ housing support. This is another example of the kind of problems experienced in today’s housing situation.

“I have asked the council to review the way it places people in temporary and interim accommodation, and hope other working homeless people will not be placed at such a disadvantage in the future.”

The man has now found housing back in London with the help of a council deposit scheme.

Earlier this month the Government released figures showing that of the 93,000 households in temporary accommodation in England this March, 25,540 were forced to move to a new area.

A spokesperson for Merton Council told The Big Issue: “We accept the findings of the ombudsman in this case and would like to take opportunity to apologise to the resident concerned. We have complied with the ombudsman ruling in full and have reviewed our procedures in line with the recommendations made.”

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