Camden Council wrongly refused housing to domestic abuse victim

Woman crying

A domestic abuse victim was wrongly prevented from joining Camden Council's housing register, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found. - Credit: Fa Barboza on Unsplash

A domestic abuse victim was wrongly deemed ineligible to join Camden’s housing register, meaning the council “significantly delayed” accepting its duty to house her.

Her complaint was among 18 upheld against the council in 2020/21 by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

The watchdog has formally raised concerns in a letter.

The council was told to apologise to the woman, pay £250 compensation, remind officers of the definition of domestic violence, review its handling of homelessness applications and review its complaints procedure.

But ombudsman Michael King said Camden’s record on remedial action was “disappointing”, as it missed the deadline in half of upheld complaints.

“A compliance rate below 100 per cent is a cause for concern,” he wrote.

He highlighted one case where, in 2019, the ombudsman found Camden had failed to properly deal with complaints by a father who had been denied contact with his children.

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It told the council to apologise within four weeks – but it took more than 13 months.

Camden only apologised after being repeatedly “chased up” by both the complainant and the ombudsman, and when it finally did apologise, it “failed to recognise” what it had done wrong.

“Of even greater concern was the council’s failure to provide evidence that it had addressed the problems we had found with its complaint handling system,” wrote Mr King.

“In response, we opened a new complaint about your council’s failure to comply.”

The council said it took the ombudsman’s concerns “extremely seriously”, but that by the time the letter had arrived, it had “already begun to make improvements”.

“We are confident that those improvements will meet the concerns around our speed in handling these matters,” a spokesperson said.

“These include an improved complaints tracker and added escalation stages to ensure complaints are dealt with in a timely way.”

The council said the “unique challenges” of the past year meant resources had been “diverted”.

“Whilst we were able to keep our complaints services open, some aspects of the complaints handling process were delayed and our planned service improvements could not be implemented as quickly as we would have liked,” the spokesperson said.