Housing List Review Launched After Watchdog Ruling

Wandsworth Council may have unfairly judged people to be intentionally homeless

Wandsworth Town Hall. Picture: Google Streetview

January 23, 2024

A watchdog has found Wandsworth Council might have wrongly excluded people judged to be ‘intentionally homeless’ from joining its housing waiting list. The borough has agreed to review applications from 11 ‘intentionally homeless’ households excluded from the scheme in the last two years.

A report by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman said it had discovered the council’s housing allocations scheme might ‘wrongly exclude intentionally homeless households from joining the waiting list’ during another investigation. An applicant is considered intentionally homeless if a council decides they did, or failed to do, something which caused them to become homeless. This can include refusing an offer of accommodation. Every local housing authority must publish an allocations scheme which explains how it prioritises applicants to join the waiting list and its procedures for allocating homes.

The report said every allocations scheme must give reasonable preference to applicants who are homeless, including those found to be intentionally homeless, along with people in a number of other categories. The ombudsman found the council’s current scheme said applicants will not qualify for social housing if it is ‘satisfied they became intentionally homeless… from their last home subject to an individual assessment’.

The report said,“The law says councils must give intentionally homeless households reasonable preference for social housing. The council cannot, therefore, exclude such households from its scheme based on their intentional homelessness alone.

“The council’s allocations scheme, as written, implies that applicants found to be intentionally homeless do not qualify to join the scheme unless the council decides otherwise in individual cases. This is fault.”

All 11 households found to be intentionally homeless by the council were excluded from its allocations scheme in the last two years. The report added these households may not have had their applications assessed against the proper criteria and ‘this uncertainty is an injustice’ to them.

The council agreed to amend the wording of its scheme to make sure it does not exclude intentionally homeless households by default in response to the ombudsman’s enquiries.

A Wandsworth Council spokesperson said,“As the report correctly notes we have already agreed to amend the wording of our scheme to ensure it supports all homelessness applications and have agreed to review a small number of cases which require further investigation.”

Charlotte Lilywhite - Local Democracy Reporter