Man with mental health issues was 'ignored by council for months'
PUBLISHED: 17:03 07 February 2020 | UPDATED: 17:07 07 February 2020
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A man with mental health issues, who was harassed in his own home, was ignored by a Norfolk council for months, a watchdog has said.
The Health and Social Care Ombudsman found Breckland District Council to be at fault over failing to properly consider the man's housing application.
Breckland council's decision to not properly consider the man - who has a diagnosis of agoraphobia, anxiety and depression - and his housing priority led to 'significant distress' and contributed to a decline in his mental health.
The man, named as Mr X in the report, has received support from mental health services since the age of 14.
Mr X said in 2017 his neighbour began harassing him by sending threatening letters, banging on the walls and creating a noise nuisance. He found this so intolerable he left his home to stay with his mother.
The report says that on June 15, 2018, Mr X completed an online housing application as he wanted to gain independence and move out of his mother's house.
Breckland Council responded in August 2018 asking for more information about Mr X's issues with harassment. The council said to the watchdog a shortage of staff during the summer of 2018 "probably delayed MR X's application by up to two months".
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A mental health nurse then wrote to Breckland Council in August 2018 in support of Mr X's application, explaining he had experienced harassment since June 2018.
The letter explained Mr X is a vulnerable adult, and the harassment he was receiving led to 'significant distress'.
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In Mr X's view, the letter alone warranted an award of gold priority, the highest the council could give him, but Breckland assessed his priority as silver.
The same nurse wrote to the council again in January 2019 saying Mr X's mental health had deteriorated due to living away from his home and he needed a move urgently.
The letter explained Mr X had not made further complaints about the harassment due to the threats received.
A Member of Parliament then wrote to the council in January 2019 saying Mr X believed the silver banding to be wrong.
In April 2019 the council awarded Mr X gold priority banding after it received new information from the housing association in April 2019 and the mental health nurse's letter of January 2019.
In regards to housing, the Ombudsman report said: "We shall never know if, but for this fault, Mr X would have successfully bid on a new home.
"Mr X limited his area of preference because he needs support. I find it is unlikely Mr X would have successfully bid on a new home but he still experienced frustration at the time taken."
Mr X was given a formal apology, £150 compensation and the council backdated Mr X's gold banding to 2019.
In response to the Ombudsman report, Breckland District Council said: "While we are unable to comment on specific cases, we can confirm that we have accepted the findings of the Ombudsman and apologised to the resident involved.
"In recognition of changing demands on our Housing Team as a result of changing national legislation, we have already made a number of improvements to our service, including reviewing the structure of the team, recruiting additional staff and developing a new housing policy."