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Tower Hamlets Council to blame after homeless pregnant woman left to sleep on floor of unfurnished flat for a month

PUBLISHED: 12:00 07 January 2020

A homeless pregnant woman who went to Tower Hamlets for help was left sleeping on the floor of an unfurnished flat for a month. Picture: Mike Brooke

A homeless pregnant woman who went to Tower Hamlets for help was left sleeping on the floor of an unfurnished flat for a month. Picture: Mike Brooke

Archant

A homeless pregnant woman who went to the council for help was left sleeping on the floor of an unfurnished flat for a month, an ombudsman has found.

The woman, who has not been named, went to Tower Hamlets Council for help last February after her father kicked her out of the family home.

But the council delayed assessing her and ran out of time to stop her becoming homeless.

When she found out she was pregnant she approached Tower Hamlets again, but it demanded more evidence. She was left sofa-surfing with friends.

The woman then showed her 12-week scan and was given the unfurnished flat in another borough away from her support network and maternity hospital.

She complained again, including about being the target of racist comments and verbal harassment where she was placed.

But the council incorrectly told her she was not entitled to a review.

She eventually moved into a private rented place three months after asking for help.

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The woman went on to complain to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, telling investigators she suffered blackouts and panic attacks. She accused housing officers of being "rude, unhelpful and unsympathetic".

During the investigation, the council paid a housing payment to cover a rent shortfall until this month and refund her deposit.

But investigators criticised the council, finding it did not do enough to help.

Ombudsman Michael King said: "Because of the council's faults, the woman was left in unsuitable temporary accommodation for three months, causing her unnecessary distress and anxiety at a time when she was most vulnerable.

"I welcome the efforts the council has made during our investigation to help the woman and hope its commitment to learn from its errors will help ensure other people are not affected in the same way in future."

The ombudsman shared the woman's story on Tuesday, January 7, as a warning to other councils of their duties under new homelessness prevention laws.

The council has agreed to apologise and pay £1,000 compensation.

A council spokeswoman said: "We deeply regret the hardship caused and accept the findings of the ombudsman's investigation.

"The council recognises errors were made. We have apologised and taken steps to ensure our processes are improved so similar mistakes do not happen again."

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