York & North Yorkshire

Homeless man dead in Harrogate hotel room for four days

A homeless man lay dead in a hotel room in Harrogate for four days after being refused emergency accommodation by two councils, a report has found.

Both Harrogate Borough Council and North Yorkshire County Council turned down requests to accommodate the man over the Christmas holidays in 2011.

They were not responsible for his death but the handling of his case was unsatisfactory, a case review says.

It urges councils to review policies for dealing with vulnerable people.

An inquest into his death at Harrogate Magistrates Court in April 2012 found he had died of an accidental overdose of morphine, which he had been prescribed as a painkiller.

The serious case review by the county council's Safeguarding Adults Board says the homeless man, referred to as Robert, was a long-term rough sleeper.

Deteriorating health

He initially came into contact with agencies in Harrogate on 21 December 2011 when he requested support to find accommodation.

He was concerned about his deteriorating health and his ability to remain sleeping rough in a tent in winter weather.

Between 21 December and the discovery of his body on 6 January he had been in contact with a number of statutory and voluntary agencies in the Harrogate area, none of which had previously had contact with him.

A local charity had made repeated bids to find him emergency council accommodation but all the requests were refused.

He was placed in a hotel paid for by the charity but died shortly afterwards.

'Lack of understanding'

The report said the Christmas holiday period had made contact with councils complicated because of needing to rely on out-of-hours arrangements.

Telephone numbers for key staff were incorrect or unavailable. Regular staff were on their Christmas holiday and had been replaced by a security firm.

Overall, there was a lack of understanding of Robert's vulnerability and who should have taken responsibility for his needs, it said.

Jonathan Phillips, chairman of North Yorkshire Safeguarding Adults Board, said the case was unusual "in that it focuses on a very short period of the man's life and that his involvement took place over the extended Christmas and New Year holiday period".

"We accept the recommendations in this report fully as they will further professionals' understanding, and support wider knowledge sharing in this complex and unique area of adult social care."

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