A disabled woman was left living in a home where she didn’t feel safe for more than a year because of the failures of a local authority and its housing agency, a joint ombudsmen report has concluded.
Neighbours began ganging up on the woman after she made a noise complaint, shortly after moving into the property in Nottingham on medical grounds, following anti-social behaviour at her previous address.
An anti-social behaviour charity told Nottingham City Homes (NCH)* in September 2020 that it was not safe for Miss X to remain at the new property because neighbours were working together to force her to move.
She was left too afraid to leave her home, and she told NCH she had been left “like a sitting duck” and requested a move in October 2020.
As the months passed, she continued to report anti-social behaviour, including stones and mud being thrown onto her property, a ball being thrown at her car, and neighbours gathering near her home, playing loud music, drinking alcohol and swearing.
By June 2021, she was phoning NCH several times a day, saying she was desperate to move.
She said she was living in fear and was a prisoner in her own home, and she began to feel suicidal.
She was offered an alternative property in December 2021, but she said it was unsuitable and in a state of disrepair and turned it down.
The ombudsmen’s report did not find fault with NCH about this, as the property was suitable for her and the concerns about disrepair could have been dealt with.
But Miss X was now making numerous reports of anti-social behaviour, including damage to her car and house from stones being thrown at them, neighbours staring at her, and neighbours drinking and swearing on land opposite her house.
She finally moved into another property in December 2022.
It was the first joint investigation to be made by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) and the Housing Ombudsman Service (HOS).
They jointly criticised Nottingham City Council and Nottingham City Homes (NCH) – which managed the council’s housing stock at the time – for the way they dealt with Miss X’s complaints about antisocial behaviour and requests to move house.
The report says the council did not do enough to review the anti-social behaviour issues she faced through the “community trigger mechanism”, and NCH took too long to examine whether it could offer her a priority move to another area.
Paul Najsarek, the local government and social care ombudsman, said: “The antisocial behaviour community trigger was set up for exactly this sort of case; where vulnerable people are affected by antisocial behaviour, local authorities can convene multi-agency meetings to see how they can best deal with problems.
“In this case, the behaviour the woman was subject to was having a clear impact on her mental health and she was left for too long in a situation that could have been improved had all organisations carried out their duties efficiently.”
Richard Blakeway, the housing ombudsman, added: “The landlord did not make use of its powers to effectively tackle antisocial behaviour and help a resident, who was presenting with mental health needs. This was unacceptable.”
Among the measures the council will now have to take, it has agreed to produce information to give to people who report antisocial behaviour, and review how it shares information with other organisations after reports of anti-social behaviour.
It will apologise to Miss X and pay her £550 in compensation, and ensure its staff “maintain clear and accurate records” of their interactions with alleged perpetrators of anti-social behaviour.
A council spokesperson said: “We fully accept the findings of the ombudsman in what has been a complex and lengthy case.
“We acknowledge that there are areas in this case where we fell short of what the tenant had every right to expect from us, and we have apologised for that.
“This case happened some time ago, and we have already made improvements to the way we handle issues of this nature.
“Feedback from this determination is also being used to review the way we work and inform our continuous improvement journey.”
*NCH previously managed the council’s housing stock as an arms-length body, but it is now part of the council
Picture by Google: Nottingham City Council offices
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