A homeless teenager fleeing abuse was failed by Merton Council when she asked it for help, a watchdog has found. 

The authority has been told to pay the young woman £3,500 in compensation for the “distress and hardship” she experienced.

In January 2020, a 17-year-old, known only as Miss X, told Merton Council she had become homeless after previously living with her mum.

A report from the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman ruled the council should have offered her temporary accommodation at this point and was at fault for not doing so.

The teenager told the council she could not stay with her grandmother but ended up doing so until her 18th birthday, when she was given a room in a bed and breakfast by the council.

  The ombudsman said: “Given Miss X’s age, mental ill-health and the fact she was fleeing abuse, I consider the council was at fault in not properly considering and documenting whether it had a duty to accommodate Miss X in January 2020.”

At the bed and breakfast, she was harassed by another resident and it took the council a week to move her to new accommodation. 

The council has since apologised for this delay in responding to her complaints of harassment.

In the same month, Miss X applied to join the council’s housing register so she could bid for properties.

This application was not processed and the council has put this failing down to human error and apologised.

In October 2020, Miss X was offered a short-term tenancy and her temporary accommodation was cancelled.

The teenager said the offer was not suitable but she felt pressured to accept it as she feared she would become homeless again and was told she would not be given further support from the council.

She struggled to afford the new property due to deteriorating mental health. Merton Council has since accepted that this was wrong.

The council paid the young woman £1,000 to acknowledge her distress but the ombudsman said it was not sufficient.

The council has since agreed to pay her a total of £3,500 “in recognition of the distress and hardship she experienced while in unsuitable accommodation”.

A spokesman for Merton Council said: “The council wishes to apologise again for errors on its part and any undue stress caused to Miss X as a result.

"As the article states, this case was dealt with via the Local Authority Ombudsman.

"The council accepted the findings, has paid Miss X compensation and has put in place the agreed actions and recommendations of the ombudsman as a result.”