Woman with cancer housed in single room with four children

An unidentified child plays aloneImage source, Getty Images

At a glance

  • A mother of four was left in an "unsuitable and overcrowded" studio flat with her four children

  • The ombudsman found she had been failed by the council, which knew her situation but did not act to re-house her

  • Croydon Council has fully accepted the findings, apologised and paid compensation to the woman

  • She and her family have now been found a more suitable home

Published

A woman recovering from cancer was left "cooped up" in a single room with her four children, a watchdog has found.

The mother, referred to as Miss X, was housed in a studio flat during the pandemic, despite having a baby and an elder child needing to do schoolwork.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGO) said Croydon Council failed to review her situation or provide additional support.

Croydon Council fully accepted the findings and Miss X and her family have now been rehoused.

Image caption,

Croydon Council fully accepted the watchdog findings

Miss X was given the studio flat as temporary accommodation in 2014 because she was homeless, but by 2021 found the space was too small.

In early 2021, she told the council the lack of private space was causing the family "severe stress and anxiety", particularly during the coronavirus lockdowns.

Despite acknowledging she was living in overcrowded accommodation, the council also failed to consider the environmental health risk, the LGO report said.

Ombudsman Michael King said: "In her complaint to the council, the mother shared the troubles her family faced being cooped up in a single room, especially during the Covid-19 lockdowns, with the lack of space for the children to play and do their homework.

"The mother was also recovering from cancer which left her weak and caused her difficulty accessing her flat.

"Despite this, the council did not review the suitability of the family's temporary accommodation, or even ask for further information about the impact the living conditions were having both on the mother and her children."

Mr King said he is pleased the council took action during the investigation and hopes the steps it has agreed "will ensure other homeless families are not left in the same situation".

'Unsuitable and overcrowded'

The council has agreed to a set of recommendations, including to apologise to Miss X, pay her £200 for the time and trouble of having to complain to the council and Ombudsman, and pay her £300 a month between January and it offering her suitable alternative temporary accommodation.

It also agreed to refer Miss X to children's services to see what extra support the family can receive.

A council spokesperson said it was strengthening housing reviews "as a priority".

They said: "We sincerely apologise to this family, who were left in an unsuitable and overcrowded home for far too long.

"The family have now been rehoused and we are in contact to assess any further support they might require from our children's services team.

"We fully accept the LGO's recommendations for the council, including agreed compensation."

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