A South London council has been forced to pay £2,000 to a resident in a wheelchair after he spent 10 months in a hotel room with a kitchen and shower he couldn’t use. Sutton Council has been told to make a payment and issue an apology to the resident.
The Housing Ombudsman said the resident, known as Mr Y in a report, injured his spinal cord in January 2021 and was now a permanent wheelchair user. The hospital reportedly told Sutton Council that Mr Y’s current flat would not be suitable once he was discharged.
Health professionals said it was important that Mr Y was able to continue his standing programme and leg stretches after he left the hospital, to keep muscle length. The Disability Housing Panel for Sutton Council reportedly considered Mr Y’s case.
The resident was booked into a hotel by the council after leaving the hospital in April 2021. The report said the room was on the ground floor and wheelchair accessible but had no cooking facilities except for a microwave. The council’s housing panel also said they could not meet the resident’s needs in the long term, before accepting his homelessness application in June.
The report said: “On August 25 2021 the hotel moved Mr Y from his interim accommodation to another nearby hotel. Ms X [the resident’s partner] says his new room did not have a shower seat when he was moved. She also says the room was not suitable for his needs because it did not have safe or accessible cooking facilities or space for him to do his rehabilitation exercises.”
The report said the resident was unhappy with the new hotel and asked the council if he could move. The council reportedly did not know Mr Y had moved to a new hotel and felt the space was suitable for his needs after visiting. The resident then asked for the council to review its decision, and did not receive a response after contacting the authority again in November 2021.
The council reportedly made another offer of accommodation to Mr Y that month, but it was unsuitable for his needs. The resident’s MP then wrote to the council in February 2022 to ask about the case. The council responded by visiting the hotel room and taking pictures, telling the MP “there appeared” to be enough space for the resident to move around.
The local authority also said Mr Y’s application had been moved up to the highest priority group and apologised for not processing the resident’s review request from the previous September. They told the resident that his review was accepted that following month.
The resident’s partner said the situation affected his physical and mental health and complained to the council about the room and delay in conducting a review. The council responded by saying a review was under way and other properties had been considered for Mr Y, but they could not be adapted to suit his needs.
Ms X, his partner, escalated her complaint but the council said their previous response had already addressed the matter. Mr Y moved out of the hotel room in June 2022 after finding accommodation with his partner through support from a charity. The council said Mr Y’s review was no longer being considered since he had moved, but that a wheelchair-accessible flat was not available in the area within which the resident moved into the next month.
The report criticised the council for its delay in processing Mr Y’s request for a review of his hotel room given his “overriding and urgent need” for fully accessible accommodation. The ombudsman also noted the limited amount of suitable properties available but felt there was little evidence to show the authority was actively looking elsewhere.
They said: “The council’s consideration of the accommodation in February 2022 identified the room was small and so it seems unlikely Mr Y would have had the space to carry out his rehabilitation exercises.”
They added: “The pictures also confirm the hob is located next to the sink and so likely to get wet. The photos show a fridge under the sink thereby preventing Mr Y getting a wheelchair close enough to easily use the sink and hob. It is therefore my view that he had inadequate cooking facilities.”
The ombudsman said in their report that the council had agreed to apologise to Mr Y in writing. They also advised the council to pay the resident £2,000 in recognition of the negative impact the accommodation had.
A Sutton Council spokesperson told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “We are committed to providing the highest quality housing and customer satisfaction to our residents. In this case, we recognise that the resident did not receive the high level of service that we hold ourselves to and we have apologised to the resident for this. We are delighted that the resident is now in a new home that meets their needs. We can confirm that all the outcomes from the Housing Ombudsman report have been actioned.”
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