Shropshire Council 'misunderstood' its duties to the homeless - social care ombudsman

The watchdog for social care has announced it fears a council may not have understood its legal duties to help the homeless.

Tim Draycott
Tim Draycott

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has finalised a report which concluded Shropshire Council had caused “injustice” to a man who slept rough in a garage and his car.

Shropshire Council has been recommended by the Ombudsman to “provide training or guidance to its housing team to ensure they understand the council’s duties to provide accommodation under the Housing Act 1996, with reference to this decision”.“The council must consider the report and confirm within three months the action it has taken or proposes to take,” a report says. “The council should consider the report at its full council, cabinet or other appropriately delegated committee of elected members and we will require evidence of this.”

Complaints were lodged with the Ombudsman by Shrewsbury resident Tim Draycott who had a long-running battle with the council and became homeless in July 2021. Even though the report says Mr Draycott has seemed happy to be homeless, the report says the council should not have taken that as being the end of the matter.Mr Draycott is referred to as Mr X throughout the Ombudsman’s report, which read: “On review of the council’s response to our draft report we consider it has misunderstood its duties. the report said.

“Where the council has a duty to provide accommodation it should make a written offer of accommodation, specifying a place of accommodation. Sending a letter which simply accepts it owes a duty is not sufficient; it must actually make an offer of accommodation.

“The council cannot discharge its duty without making any offer and instead suggesting the service user was otherwise happy remaining homeless. It is concerning that the council has not understood its statutory duties as others will likely be impacted by this.”

Mr Draycott complained the council lowered his housing need banding in December 2021. but said there was a lack of evidence to this and they could not find fault. The Ombudsman said: “It is clear from our findings that the council’s communication with Mr X fell short. We do not make any separate finding of fault.”

The Ombudsman has been ordered to make an offer of suitable temporary accommodation and a four-figure sum as recompense for council failings over one three-month and one seven-month period.

The council and Mr Draycott gave “conflicting accounts” of what happened and the Ombudsman said it has set out “what we consider more likely than not to have happened, based on the information and evidence available”.

In one instance Mr Draycott complained about one property offered to him because it has a low roof. The council was considered at fault for not considering “whether the accommodation was suitable after Mr X complained”.

“Mr X has suffered uncertainty as to whether the council would have offered him other interim accommodation. This is injustice.”

The council has also agreed to review all formal letters to ensure they are written in “plain English” making them easier to understand.

Even though Mr Draycott told the council different things the council had a statutory duty to make suitable temporary accommodation available when it accepted the main housing duty.

Mr Draycott, who became homeless during the Covid-19 lockdown, told the Shropshire Star: “This all stems from them refusing me a blanket and toaster mid-winter from the social and welfare fund. I have never asked them for anything, I only gave to the council - either in the form of free marquees, supplying to fetes and fun days from my business, before my demise during the lockdown years to homelessness.I was very much happy in a garage with water and heating until the council removed me, stating it was unsafe.

“They forced me into my car through the winter months, threatening that the garage owner could be fined and sending around investigators to his home,” he said.

Mr Draycott has recently found accommodation and he has left the hotel he had been living in in Shrewsbury. He added that he still “very much appreciates them giving me a roof over my head for the little time spent there.”Since the complaint he has opened a YouTube channel and has written a book on council care called “Into the arms of the carers”.

The book has made £3,000 for homeless causes.

Mr Draycott added: “I never ever wanted any help and I only ask if really needed.“I can happily say I am now all sorted in life again, now writing my second book on my catering days for the high-end celebs and the Queen.”Mr Draycott said he hopes the council will put local born and bred people first. A spokesman for Shropshire Council said: “As the report from the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has not yet been published, the council, as directed by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, must keep the matter confidential and is not able to make public comment.”

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