South Tyneside Council caused “significant injustice” to two older people for failing to deal with their claims of harassment by their sheltered housing warden, local government ombudsman Anne Seex said today.
Seex ruled that the council’s failure to deal with the complaints left the neighbours – known as Mr P and Mrs S – living in an atmosphere of “harassment and fear” which eventually forced them to move out. The scheme was owned by the council and run by South Tyneside Homes, an arms-length management organisation.
The council has accepted and acted on Seex’s recommendations to rehouse Mr P and Mrs S, pay for their moving expenses and reimburse the costs they incurred in moving out of the scheme. South Tyneside Homes has also paid them £2,500 compensation each, as recommended by Seex, in recognition of the time, trouble and distress they experienced.
The case began in 2004 after Mr P, who has mobility difficulties, complained that the warden had let an unattended repair engineer into his flat. He claimed that she then became abusive toward him and Mrs S and incited other residents to be hostile towards them.
The problem escalated and on one occasion the warden’s daughter turned up outside Mr P’s flat in the middle of the night shouting death threats. The incident was caught on tape and an ombudsman investigator described the recording as “harrowing”.
The investigation also revealed concerns from other residents, including from an older woman who said the warden ran the scheme “like Colditz”.
The report found that the council “completely failed to undertake any proper investigation” into the complaints and that a separate adult protection investigation regarding Mr P, which was supposed to be completed within 15 days, “meandered on for over six months”.
Seex said that the council’s inaction flew in the face of “very persuasive evidence”. She added: “This was maladministration with potentially very serious consequences.”