A family that lived over a year in “unsuitable temporary accommodation” will receive £500 compensation after the only alternative they were offered was in Hertfordshire.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has ordered Enfield Council to pay the money after the mother – referred to in its report as ‘Miss B’ – was left relying on social care support instead of having a suitable bathroom.

The family, consisting of a mother and her three children, declared themselves homeless in 2020 and were placed in temporary accommodation.

Due to one of the children having additional needs, in November 2022 an occupational therapist found the home needed adapting. 

The landlord refused to allow any installations, and the council concluded the home was not suitable in February 2023. 

But the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found the family was still waiting for an offer and the council was unable to provide anything due to the lack of adapted larger properties in the area. 

Miss B needed a ground-floor, three bedroom property, with a level-access shower or walk-in bath or a room that could be adapted. While the family waited, the council provided social care support to help Miss B bathe her son. 

In August 2023, after waiting six months, Miss B made a formal complaint and in September the council responded, apologising for the failure to find a suitable property. Miss B then escalated her complaint. 

In the watchdog’s report the council stated there was a “national shortage" of properties, particularly for larger and adapted accommodation and it had changed its policy to allow the provision of accommodation “across the country”  to deal with the problem. 

In October the council said the only bungalow available that week was in Hertfordshire. A few adapted three-bedroom houses had come up, but they had stairs. 

The report confirmed Miss B, who was on the housing register, was able to bid for social housing, but the average waiting time for the type of property she needed was “more than 15 years”. 

In October the council extended its social care provision for another six months.

The local ombudsman found the council to be at fault for failing to find suitable alternative accommodation starting from February 2023 and told the local authority to discuss alternative properties with Miss B,  including properties with stairs, ensuring they had a bath or shower on the ground floor and a room that could be converted into a bedroom. 

Along with the payment of £500, the ombudsman told the council if an offer of suitable alternative accommodation was not made within three months of its decision, the council would have to pay Miss B a further £300. 

Enfield Council was approached for comment.