Claims council officer made threat in attempt to make family move house, reports Victoria Munro, Local Democracy Reporter
A mum claims Waltham Forest Council threatened to take her daughter away if she didn’t agree to move to a new home.
Shannon McNally, 30, and her daughter were first housed by the council in temporary accommodation in Chingford this past January – but were suddenly told last month to move to a different home in Leyton for the next two years.
Shannon said she was given no reason for the move, which will take her further from her frail mother, but claims a council employee said she would lose custody of her seven-year-old if she refused.
After agreeing, she was horrified to find rodent droppings in the Leyton property and says the front door lock recently and inexplicably changed, meaning the other occupant has to let her in.
Shannon said: “I was told on 28th July that if I didn’t visit the property the next day and accept it, I would end up being thrown out and they would take custody of my child.
“I went there and saw rodents and tons of bluebottles everywhere. It’s like they are infested, it’s in the bedroom, kitchen and living room. My daughter ran down the stairs screaming.
“I told the council and they said it’s suitable for us to move in while it’s being cleaned, but I have an autoimmune disease so moving in there would have dire consequences.”
Shannon says her current landlord is happy to keep her as a private tenant and that she is trying to raise the deposit, although doing so will take her off the waiting list for a council home.
She added: “I understand there’s a massive housing crisis and I’m not likely to be housed in the next ten years but I would like to be entitled to bid [for a council home] and try.”
She also feels she was intimidated into accepting the move by the alleged threat of losing custody – and claims the council employee brought up her custody battle over her other child.
The council’s cabinet member for housing, Louise Mitchell, said they were unable to discuss individual cases and did not respond to Shannon’s allegation she was threatened with losing her child.
However, she said the council tries to ensure the homes it offers are “in good condition” and takes “immediate steps” to resolve any issues.
She said: “We have made a commitment to move as many households as possible out of temporary accommodation and into settled accommodation.
“Temporary accommodation should only be used as an interim solution to prevent people having to live on the streets.
“The health and safety of residents is a high priority, and we try to ensure that any accommodation we offer meets the relevant standard and is in good condition.
“When any problems or matters of disrepair are brought to our attention we take immediate steps to resolve them. This often involves working with private landlords to ensure improvements are made.”