Old law, new law, same old story

Approaching the council has become a menace to my life. Old law, new law, none of them is favourable to me. Instead of the council helping, they’ve just been dodgy, not sincere in their comments. It makes it difficult for me and my family.  Now they say that I’m top of the list, but without any communication, without getting anything, I still don’t know how they want to help. The council should look into my case and do justice to it.’ – H

Our member H has been struggling all year to make Haringey Council take on her homelessness case. She told them in February that she and her children could not bear to go on living any longer in their overcrowded accommodation. But, 5 months later, H is still waiting for the council to offer her any concrete assistance. H’s children are starting their school holidays in the same overcrowded flat– when the new term starts, will they be going home to a suitable home at last?

Handmade black and white print depicting a house with 'Share Home' written on it and a hand with 'Home' written on it.H had to fight even to get a housing appointment. After chasing her caseworker for months, she finally discovered that they had closed her case, then opened a fresh case under the new Homelessness Reduction Act. They claimed that H had ‘failed to communicate’ because she, allegedly, did not receive one voice message. Yet the council never even informed H that they were closing her case. She only found out months later, after she insisted on seeing her caseworker face-to-face.

H’s caseworker has even acknowledged that H’s current accommodation is ‘unreasonable to occupy’. This is the legal definition of homelessness! Yet the council seem happy to keep H and her children waiting in their ‘unreasonable’ accommodation with no end in sight.

Over the past months, H’s case has been mishandled so often that it’s hard to summarise, but here are some of the highlights:

  • Mid-February: H informed the council that she was severely overcrowded. She explained that it was affecting her family’s health, education and wellbeing, and asked to be given a homelessness appointment. However, Customer Services refused, saying that she was ‘clearly not homeless’. When H and her supporters insisted, she was eventually referred to the council’s in-house Shelter adviser to ‘see if you need to have a homelessness appointment or not’.
  • After 1 month: After pressure from HHAG, H was finally given a homelessness appoinrment with a housing caseworker, who said she would contact H soon to arrange a home visit.
  • After 2 ½ months: After numerous attempts to contact her caseworker by phone and email, H tried to make enquiries in person at the (appointment-only) housing office. She was told that the caseworker would call her, but she never received any such call.
  • After 3 months: H sent another email and made another attempt to visit the housing office. HHAG also submitted a group letter to the caseworker…still no response.
  • After 3 ½ months: H submitted a formal complaint. In the following week, she finallyreceived a home visit from a council officer. After waiting for months, the visit lasted all of 5 minutes.
  • After 4 months: H made another attempt to visit the housing office, and managed to pass on a message. The next day, her caseworker finally called and stated that H was not homeless, but that the council would assist her through their find-your-own scheme. H emailed to ask for an explanation and a decision letter on her homelessness case. She didn’t get a response.
  • After 4 ½ months: H tried to make an appointment via Customer Services, but was refused. She and supporters from HHAG went to the housing office and demanded to see the caseworker. We weren’t allowed in, but H was eventually given an appointment.

On 3rd July, H finally met her caseworker face-to-face for the first time since March.

She discovered that:

-  her original case had been closed in April, because she had allegedly failed to respond to a phone message (which she never received). The council had never mentioned this before.

-  the council then opened a fresh case at the start of May, under the new Homelessness Reduction Act. Again, they told her nothing about this.

-  they had decided that she was ‘threatened with homelessness’ under the new law. Once again, nobody had ever mentioned this to H before.

How can somebody say she closed a case without even communicating with the person she’s dealing with? I abided by her rules, but she didn’t abide by them, and then she blamed me for not communicating.

Handmade blue and white engraved print depicting a rabbit holding a placard with a house on it.Officially, H is now ‘threatened with homelessness’ – this is defined as ‘likely to become homeless within 56 days’. Are the council going to find her a new home before this time is up?

In fact, though her caseworker insists that H is not currently homeless, she has also described H’s flat as ‘unreasonable to occupy’.  If the council agree that she can’t be expected to stay, how much longer will they leave her living there?

H’s caseworker has claimed that H is ‘top of the list for a 3-bed’ but what does this really mean? She’s waited 5 months – how much longer will she have to wait?

Do Haringey Council really plan to find H a new home, or are they just making empty gestures? What exactly are they doing right now to help her? H wants to be sure that, when the new term starts, her children will be starting afresh in a decent home.

To find out more about our next steps to protest H’s mistreatment, follow us on Twitter or Facebook, or sign up for our announcements mailing list.

July 23, 2018  Tags: , , , , ,   Posted in: HHAG ACTIONS