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VLC's Housing Team in the press over homelessness complaint involving pregnant mum

On 16.04.23, Vauxhall Law Centre had a complaint against Liverpool City Council’s handling of one of our clients’ homelessness cases upheld by the Housing Ombudsman. Our client, referred to as Ms M, was represented by one of our Housing Solicitor’s, Siobhan Taylor-Ward.

The case has received high interest from local press and national law publications for highlighting the ways in which our housing team are combatting homelessness in the city outside of the courts.

You can read the outcome of the complaint via the ombudsmen website here:

How Ms M was failed by Liverpool Council

Ms M spent over a year homeless, sofa surfing or in temporary accommodation with her 10-month-old daughter due to Liverpool City Council not providing her with the help she was entitled to. Ms M contacted Liverpool City Council three times in March 2021 and did not receive a ‘substantive response’. She then went on to make a further eight enquiries informing the council that ‘she was struggling to cope’ before eventually being assessed in December 2021, when the Council finally acknowledged she was homeless and eligible for support. Ms M was unable to move into a permanent home until April 2022, on the same day she went into labour with her second child.

After months of delays and injustice in Ms M’s case, Housing Solicitor at Vauxhall Law Centre Siobhan Taylor Ward, filed a complaint to the Social Care Ombudsman and Local Government in July 2022. The complaint was on the grounds that Liverpool City Council had failed to complete their duty to Ms M by not properly assessing her application when she initially contacted them. As well as this, they failed to communicate with her and provide her with suitable advice.

Siobhan highlighted that the councils’ failings led to Ms M being homeless and left in unsuitable accommodation much longer than she would have been, had they properly assessed her application and assigned her the correct housing priority. Following Siobhan’s complaint on behalf of Ms M, the Ombudsman found the council at fault and made recommendations for them to remedy the injustice.

After detailed investigations, the Ombudsman said that the Council caused avoidable distress to Ms M which led to a negative impact on her young daughter. They recommended a letter of apology and a payment of £2000 in compensation. The council issued Ms M with an apology letter on 24/04/23 stating ‘’I acknowledge that this caused you distress at what was already a stressful time and I am sorry for the impact this had on you.’’ Following this, the Council have said that they will be ‘’taking action to improve services’’.

Using the law and Ombudsman complaints processes to combat homelessness in Liverpool

Vauxhall Law Centre’s Housing team decided to start to pursue complaints processes and ombudsman referrals in homelessness cases against Liverpool City Council in a bid to push for systemic change in the way in which the authority manages homeless cases and carries out its legal duties.

They have been using legal routes of statutory reviews and the threat of judicial review consistently in increasing numbers of cases over a prolonged period of time. Through this, they achieve success for individual clients who are eventually dealt with lawfully and moved into suitable accommodation but the clear failure to correctly follow the legal process and constant mishandling of cases continues. We decided that, alongside advocacy and attempts to work with the authority to explain problems with the system and impacts upon our clients, we would seek redress through the Ombudsman who can complete independent investigations and issue public reports and decisions. We intend to continue to pursue these complaints, where clients are willing and able to, in the hope that shining a light on these failings and repeating recommendations for change and improvement will eventually lead to a system which works to prevent and relieve increasing levels of homelessness.

Siobhan said “Ms M has been brave and steadfast throughout this case, many clients have similar complaints that they have felt unable to pursue to this stage, we hope that her strength encourages others to come forwards when they have been let down. The report is very disheartening to read but we are hopeful that these findings, alongside the previous recommendations made in January in a previous ombudsman decision, will help shine a light on the major issues within our homelessness services and lead to major systemic and cultural change.”

Ms M said “I can’t believe we have won against the council, the fact that they have accepted liability and that we will be helping so many people in the situation, I am just over the moon! I feel like the stress of it all is finally over, this system is crazy and hopefully this will give other people the courage to stand up to them too, nothing will ever change if we just stand and say nothing.”

In the news…

The case has received wide ranging coverage in the news because of the circumstances of Ms M’s case and her willingness to speak out about what happened to her.

The highlight of this was in the form of TV coverage on ITV News Granada where Siobhan and Ms M were interviewed. You can watch the TV report and read more about the case below on their website:

The decision was also highlighted in the following outlets;

Liverpool Echo

The Justice Gap

Law Gazette

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