Young family left homeless by Haringey Council’s blunder.
A single mum and her three children were left homeless after Haringey Council botched a calculation of her housing benefit.
An official report says the family – which includes a disabled child – were forced to move out of their home after the council wrongly told her she owed more than £8,000 in overpaid benefits.
The report by the Local Government Ombudsman also finds the council mishandled her homelessness application, meaning the family had to stay in unsuitable accommodation.
Haringey Council has apologised for the mistakes and says it has paid the family more than £5,500 in compensation.
The mum-of-three – whose identity has been kept anonymous – moved into a three-bedroom home in the borough in 2015.
In May 2017, the council suspended her housing benefit payments and asked her for information about her childcare costs.
While dealing with the council, the mum fell behind on her rent payments.
In October 2017, the council decided it had been overpaying her housing benefit because her childcare costs had not been as high as it previously thought, and she had not told the council she was self-employed for nine months.
But when doing the sums, the council failed to apply an “underlying entitlement rule”, meaning it came up with the wrong overpayment figure.
The local authority told her landlord she owed the council more than £8,600 – even though it had no right to tell him about the overpayment.
In November 2017, the landlord told her to leave the property, and she and her three children went to stay with her mother and later with her ex-partner.
The Ombudsman found the council failed to send her case to an appeals tribunal, which would have spotted its mistakes.
After reducing her overpayment bill two more times, the council finally told her – in February 2019 – that it had been written off altogether.
The council also told her she had been entitled to a third child allowance from April 2017, meaning she had actually been underpaid housing benefit.
The Ombudsman found the council mishandled her homelessness application because it failed to recognise she could be in priority need.
Haringey Council says it is now reviewing all similar housing benefit cases between July 2017 and March 2018 and will correct any mistakes.
Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman Michael King said: “The miscalculation of this woman’s benefit entitlement has had a significant impact on her family’s life.
“To compound that problem, the council did not deal with her homelessness application properly and failed to refer her case to the appeal tribunal as it was obliged to do in law.
“I am pleased the council has accepted my recommendations and hope the review it has pledged to make of past cases, and the improved policies and procedures it will put in place, will help it to understand what has gone wrong and ensure other people are not placed in the same difficult position as this family.”
A Haringey Council spokesperson said: “We’re sorry for the mistakes we made in this specific case and have taken steps to fix them.
“The wellbeing of residents is a priority for Haringey Council as it is for all local authorities and we’re determined to learn lessons from this to ensure similar situations are not repeated in the future.”