A man who pleaded to Merton council for help with housing, was forced to give up his job when the council moved him and his family into temporary accommodation in Birmingham.

An investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found Merton at fault because it did not take into account the man’s employment status when making the offer of accommodation more than 100 miles away.

Merton Council’s housing policy allows it to prioritise certain households for homes in Merton, or within a 90 minute commute of the borough.

Households who don't meet certain criteria, including employment, can be housed “wherever accommodation can be secured”.

But the Ombudsman found that Merton Council had ignored information about the resident’s employment when housing him in Birmingham.

The man, who has not been named by the Ombudsman, worked two jobs to support his family and says he told officers he was working when he asked for help in October 2017.

However, Merton Council says it has no record of this.

Wimbledon Times:

The Ombudsman found evidence that the man had told the council about difficulties he was having maintaining his employment in November 2017, but the council failed to consider moving him closer to his employment.

The man has now found accommodation in the capital with the help of a council deposit scheme.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “The man told the council his jobs could not be done from the Midlands.

Unfortunately he had to give up one of his jobs, and faced increased travel cost to get to the other. Had the council listened to the man’s concerns, it is likely he would not have been placed so far away from his work.

“I have previously talked about how the pre-conceived ideas of homelessness no longer ring true, and we’ve seen people in work come to us with complaints about their councils’ housing support.

"This is another example of the kind of problems experienced in today’s housing situation.

“I have asked the council to review the way it places people in temporary and interim accommodation, and hope other working homeless people will not be placed at such a disadvantage in the future.”

Paul Kohler, the Lib Dem councillor for Trinity Ward, has since hit out at Merton Council. 

He said: "We need urgent action from Merton Council to make sure that mistakes like this cannot happen again.

"This must include a review of everyone who has been housed more than 90 minutes away to see if they have been similarly affected. 

Moving families to places where they know no-one is hugely stressful and disruptive and Merton should be avoiding doing so whenever possible.”

Merton Council has agreed to apologise and pay the man a total of £1,768. This is made up of £1,200 for placing him in unsuitable accommodation, £418 in travel costs and a further £150 for his time and trouble in bringing the complaint.

A spokesperson for Merton Council said: “We accept the findings of the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman in this case and would like to take opportunity to apologise to the resident concerned.

"We have complied with the Ombudsman ruling in full and have reviewed our procedures in line with the recommendations made.”