Liverpool City Council 'repeatedly ignored' pleas of homeless and pregnant single mum

Video report by ITV Granada Reports journalist Emma Sweeney

A single mother has been given £2,000 in compensation after a council repeatedly failed to act when she told it she and her baby had nowhere to live.

The family did not receive the advice or assistance they were entitled to for seven months, even though they had contacted Liverpool City Council for help on numerous occasions, the Local Government Ombudsman found.

The woman - who has asked not to be named - first reached out to the local authority in March 2021, a report said.

She informed them she had a 10-month-old child and was having to sofa surf as she had no home of her own.

The mothers claim they were repeatedly ignored by Liverpool City Council. Credit: ITV News

The local authority finally provided the family with temporary accommodation in October 2021 but it was not until April 2022 - on the same day the woman went into labour with her second child - she was given the keys to a new, permanent home.

Despite contacting the council "approximately ten times" between July and October 2021, the local authority "did not provide any substantive reply to these contacts, make any enquiries, or assess [her] housing circumstances", the ombudsman found.

In a letter of apology, the council said it accepted the findings of the report and Anne Marie Lubanski, Director of Adult Services said: "I acknowledge that this caused you distress at what was already a stressful time and I am sorry for the impact this had on you."

"Unfortunately the delay in responding to [the complaint] further exacerbated the issue in helping [her] to find suitable accommodation, and for this we have sincerely apologised.

"We acknowledge and accept the findings of the Ombudsman and are using this case to develop the service and make the necessary improvements required.”

But ITV has spoken to another young mother who claims she was also repeatedly ignored by the council for six months, after telling them on several occasions she too had nowhere to live and was couch surfing with a one-year-old and a three-year-old.

The woman, who has also asked to remain anonymous, told us that at one point she became so desperate, she ended up sleeping with her children in a car for two nights.

The woman said: "The oldest one was getting upset, cause she likes having her bed and her teddies and being all cuddled up, and obviously she couldn't cause she was sleeping next to me in the passenger seat."

"She cried a little bit and asked if we could go home and then that made me feel bad cause I knew that we couldn't."

  • Siobhan Taylor-Ward is the housing solicitor at Vauxhall Law Centre who escalated the case to the Ombudsman.

The mother eventually reached out directly to her local councillor who contacted the local authority's housing team.

The family were then moved into temporary accommodation and are now being represented by Vauxhall Law Centre, who have submitted a complaint to the local authority on their behalf.

Siobhan Taylor-Ward, the housing solicitor at Vauxhall Law Centre who represents both women, escalated the first case to the Ombudsman.

Ms Taylor-Ward said as soon as the mother called the council, she should have been booked in for a full assessment to see if she was in priority need and likely to be homeless and therefore eligible for assistance.

She also said emergency interim accommodation should have been immediately provided whilst the assessment was ongoing. 

Liverpool City Council say they accept their handling of this case "fell below an acceptable standard." Credit: ITV News

Instead, Ms Taylor-Ward says the council "failed to accept a valid homeless approach, properly progress [the woman's] application, or assign the correct housing priority."

The solicitor also complained about the council's communication and the housing advice it provided, which she argued led to the mother being homeless and in unsuitable accommodation for longer than she would otherwise have been.

Liverpool City Council has said it will be "taking action to improve services."

Ms Taylor-Ward told us the Vauxhall Law Centre had tried working with the council to explain the problems they are seeing, but "it feels very much like the system is just broken and the processes aren't properly in place."

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