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Shortcomings in partnership between London councils leave victim of domestic abuse in limbo

Local authorities fail to ensure woman was safely housed

There was a lack of effective partnership working between two west London authorities when supporting a woman at risk of domestic violence, says a Local Government Ombudsman report.

The woman is a Brent council tenant who had been suffering abuse at the hands of a former partner. It was not safe for the woman to remain in her home, as her ex-partner continued to make serious threats towards her and had links in Brent and other boroughs in the London area.

She called on Brent council to help her move away from the area. The council had a reciprocal agreement in place with six neighbouring authorities to re-house tenants who are victims of domestic abuse. It aims to prevent them losing security of tenure and having to make a homelessness application.

However, instead of immediately referring the woman to another authority under the reciprocal scheme, Brent council inappropriately spent several months looking into a managed move within the borough.

After some time Brent council passed her details on to nearby Ealing council, but then that authority took 11 weeks to determine the woman's application, instead of the agreed five working days.

This delayed the woman's housing application being accepted by another council because her case could not be passed on while Ealing was still considering her application. When Ealing eventually looked at her situation it decided not to accept her application.

Dr Jane Martin, Local Government Ombudsman said:

"I welcome the fact that so many local authorities are seeking to work together more closely to deliver better services to their residents. However, it is essential that the delivery of those partnerships matches the aspiration of more joined up service provision.

"When people are particularly vulnerable, it is all the more important that organisations work together effectively to remove them from possible harm. This investigation demonstrates the impact when this does not happen.

"Although there was a protocol in place between the two authorities, neither took proactive steps to ensure the woman was safely housed.

"Both authorities have accepted my recommendations to help ensure that no other victims of domestic violence fall through the cracks as this woman did."

To remedy the complaint, Brent council has agreed a senior manager will write to apologise to the woman. It will also provide refresher training for front-line staff about the domestic violence procedure and provide evidence it has reviewed the liaison and joint working arrangements between its Housing Needs service and Brent Housing Partnership, when the victim is a council tenant.

The council has agreed to pay the woman £750 for the distress and anxiety caused by its delays and insensitive handling of her housing needs and a further £250 to her representative who has supported her through her complaint.

Ealing council will arrange for a senior manager to write to apologise to the woman. It will also arrange for a designated officer to act as a central point to log and monitor the progress of all referrals made under the reciprocal scheme and report to the head of service.

Ealing will work with the other partner authorities in the reciprocal scheme to review and clarify the wording of the protocol.

It has also agreed to pay the woman £600 for the distress and anxiety caused by its delay.