Council officers told off by managers for deciding that homeless people should be helped. Wtf is going on here.

I’m back, so here we go:

As readers of this site will know, I’ve been publishing interviews in which a council homelessness officer talks about working on the homelessness frontline as the housing crisis deepens (there are links to earlier articles at the end of this post).

This officer has worked in housing offices across London and Greater London councils for nearly 20 years (the officer still works in council homelessness and housing offices in the same areas).

Sometimes, this officer has worked as a council review officer.

Review officers re-examine council decisions that homeless people want to challenge. Review officers can overturn a council’s original decision not to help a homeless person with housing if that officer decides the original decision was wrong.

Problem is – this officer has come under pressure from senior council management NOT to overturn original council decisions when those original decisions found against a homelessness person’s entitlement or priority for housing assistance.

The officer says that this happened not long ago at one London council.

At this council, the officer overturned the council’s original decision not to give an older homeless person and a disabled homeless person priority for housing help.

A so-called medical adviser from the private sector who “advises” councils on such things (more on this external-medical-advice-for-council-homelessness-officers racket soon) had come up with assessments which were taken to mean that the two homeless people shouldn’t be given priority for help on medical grounds.

The officer disagreed.

Events took an outrageous turn after that.

The officer was told off by management for overturning those two decisions – for deciding that the council must give those two homeless people priority.

The officer reports being called into a meeting with management and asked to justify overturning these decisions not to give those homeless people priority.

Senior management was displeased to find that review officers were overturning council homelessness decisions – even though overturning council decisions after reviewing legislation and a homelessness person’s application was a key part of a review officer’s job.

The officer was very unhappy about this. The officer says, “it was like getting a formal warning” for saying the council should help homeless people that it wanted to disregard.

The officer felt that the whole incident was a worrying development – senior management hauling reviews officers over the coals for overturning decisions that reviews officers should overturn.

More than that – the officer was asked to liaise with the council’s housing options team in future if the officer decided to overturn any more council homelessness decisions.

This was an extraordinary instruction.

Review officers are supposed to work separately from the housing officers whose original decisions are being reviewed. They might ask the original officer for more information about a case and decision – but not for permission to overturn it.

The whole idea is that a homeless person’s application goes to a different officer if the homeless person wants to challenge the council’s original decision not to help.

The team that made the original decision should NOT be given the chance to lean on a review officer who is considering overturning the housing team’s decision. Certainly, a review officer should not have to ask the original decisionmaking team if that team is okay with somebody overturning a rotten decision that team made.

Said the officer:

“The manager [who came to see me] had these files in his hand.

He said, “let’s have a chat.” I said, “Okay.”

They [the files] were some non-priority decisions. I had overturned them.

Our reviews team was in one team, so we had one senior manager. The housing options guys – they had their own senior manager. There was a head of service above them.

The [housing] options manager who was moaning to the head of service about these cases was saying, “How can [the reviews officer] overturn these cases? The [external private medical advisers] said they had no priority.

I explained for a start that [the homeless person] was 70 years old. Of course they’ve got priority. One of them was walking with a stick. They [the housing options team] were like – “he doesn’t have priority.” Of course he has priority.

My manager is like, “they’re moaning about it [the housing options team]. I agree with your decisions, but they’re moaning about it.”

I said, “too bad.” I said, if they don’t like it…”

In the end, [my manager said], “if you’re going to overturn decisions in future, would you discuss it with the manager of the options team beforehand and give them a heads up or whatever…”

There was another guy there [in the reviews team] who was overturning more decisions than me. He’d been told, “it’s been noted” [by management] sort of thing.

It’s kind of like a first warning, isn’t it – “let’s see if you are going to change or what. A subtle warning…” [for deciding that people are entitled to housing help].”

Quite mess, all of this.

Previously published interviews with this officer:

We housed a homeless family back in the flat they’d just been evicted from.

Of course we know temporary accommodation is foul

Some officers are zealots when it comes to finding people intentionally homeless

60 thoughts on “Council officers told off by managers for deciding that homeless people should be helped. Wtf is going on here.

  1. Sadly this type of behaviour is not unusual, I used to work for elected members at my local council, a major role was scrutiny support but when poor practice was evidenced I had similar treatment from my manager – he said reports could not criticise other departments because they didn’t like it.

    • Great, isn’t it. “We should have given you housing priority, but we didn’t want to piss off the guy who does our performance reviews.” So much for robust review systems.

      • Well stuff the boss and get revenge on the BEASTS who turn people down for housing! Or quit the council/Jobcentre and join the support workers, Citizens Advice, foodbank or anybody else who actually gives a sh1t. They could do with some help, you know.

        • This officer actually takes a big risk talking to me. Ain’t nobody around to pay this person’s bills if they get the sack. I’ve already had a legal threat over some of this work, so there’s no doubt that this person could find themselves in a firing line at some point. Perhaps we could see a lead from unions in supporting council and jobcentre workers as they strike indefinitely against the type of bullshit described in the original post. Except the unions will do nothing of the sort.

          • It seems there might be a house for a 70-year-old, though. Otherwise he’s dead in a doorway. Bills paid but killed a man, or sacked and get by like the rest of us? I know which one I would choose. It seems there are a lot of people on the dole for you to say it’s not an option. Anyway, it won’t be long before this guy gets fired anyway in restructuring or you’re-no-longer-good-enough or work-till-you-go-mad or whatever. He might as well make a difference while he can. Spread the love a bit. He’ll be grateful if someone does the same when he’s in the queue at the housing office.

          • Trolled and called useless on my very own site. The pain. Nobody has any manners any more.
            The officer did overturn the original decision for the 70 year old, though. Are you saying that officers with a conscience and the guts to overturn bad decisions even when pressured not to do so by management should leave the job and leave the door open for some crawler who does exactly as management says? Would have thought you were better than that.

          • WHO CALLED YOU USELESS?

            There’s no point in me writing anything because you can’t understand it anyway.

          • I SAID HE SHOULD IGNORE MANAGEMENT AND CARRY ON DOING HIS JOB PROPERLY, JUST LIKE HE IS DOING NOW.

            I’m sure he’s capable of making his own decisions anyway, Kate. He doesn’t need instructions from me.

            Please
            Thank you
            Whatever – I am trying to be polite

            Nobody said you were useless. Nobody said you were useless. Nobody said you were useless.

          • Are you calling me a troll? All I did was make a COMMENT about your BLOG POST. That is not trolling.

            Perhaps you should start with your ACTUAL trolls, who come on here writing poems about hats.

            Why do you have it in for me, Kate? You don’t even know me. Is it my name, my religion, my EU stance?

          • I have been through all this when I worked in the public sector. I know what I am talking about. Clearly, you don’t really understand. Well, I thought your posts were good and I thought your projects sounded very worthy, but hey! All I get is venom in return.

            Gonna ban me? Ban me then.

          • I think there area couple of the unions, the PCS and Unite who are trying to campaign against some of this. Obviously it’s slanted in the direction of their own union members. But even so, they are trying to do something.
            But the TUC have been useless and compliant all along. First with the cuts to public services, and the whole austerity campaign. Then with forced workfare, sanctions and the Work Programme.

          • The reason the unions are no good in this area is because they get their money from those who HAVE a job, not those who don’t.

          • This officer’s humanitarian attitude just shows that there are some good people trapped in these systems.
            And you still meet them as a service user.
            The Work Coach trying not to sanction a vulnerable claimant, when really they should do. But holding back because they see the system as unjust and cruel. The Housing Officer, as in Kate’s example, trying their very best for someone, even if it means a lecture from their manager. These people, decent people, are putting their own jobs on the line, to do what they think is right.
            If Kate were to identify the Housing Officer in question they would probably be sacked.

          • Trouble is there seem to be no really decent mainstream unions these days. The PCS who represent DWP workers, amongst others, seem to be cool with supporting their members who implement these obscene Tory policies when they could be key players in the fightback against the Tory bastards. In most situations it might not be so cut and dried, but fundamentally what the PCS is condoning are the sort of policies that lead to concentration camps and worse.

            I don’t want to overstate it, as at present we are in a situation where we are at the top of a slippery slope, but the lack of conscience from PCS leaders and a lack of willingness to condemn government policies towards the sick, the disabled and the unemployed makes them, and their members complicit. They need to be reminded that there is no Nuremburg defence for what they are doing.

            Sadly, it goes all the way to the top, with Labour, even caring, compassionate Corbyn effectively complicit in all of this, fundamentally worried more about the way that the right-wing press will interpret any principled opposition than in ignoring the press and doing the right thing.

            We have been sleep-walking into this crisis for nearly 40 years.

            You rightly point out that your informant needs their job in order to pay their bills, and it’s nowadays a bit idealistic to expect them to just throw in the towel. In times past, it could have been an option, but those days are long gone where you could give up a job and receive a ‘sanction’ of having your application for Unemployment Benefit denied for two weeks. If you leave your employment, or are sacked, now it’s an automatic six month sanction. Unemployment Benefit actually allowed a person to live, it was humane, and actually recognised that bare subsistence was insufficient. Even Jobseeker’s Allowance was relatively humane, compared to this abomination we now have.

            I almost despair. Recently I was asked by a friend to accompany them to the Jobcentre as it was their UC signing day and they were a bit concerned that they might be bullied. They asked their union, the IWW if they could provide someone, as they seem to want to big themselves up over how they care as much about unemployed workers as they do those in employment – but they drew a blank. I was happy to help, but it shows that even so called radical workers organisations can be useless in the fightback we so badly need.

            How a fightback is to be organised I haven’t a clue, and it’s very hard to see how so many disparate groups can be brought together, and also, and this is a huge one, overcome the apathy that has allowed the Tories to rule for so long. Some might baulk, but what we are up against is evil, and it’s the same kind of evil that so many fought against in wars in the past. I’m not saying that the Tories are (quite) that evil, but they are complicit, and they’re certainly easing the path for this evil to take root, and are content to gain from it, so perhaps they are as bad? They are certainly it’s handmaiden. And so are Labour.

          • It is a mess. I can only see things turning around with a massive re-funding and re-training exercise in the public sector, and god knows there’s no political will for that.

          • Christians care. Bishops care. But they don’t count, do they, Kate?

          • I’m not trolling or calling you useless, but I hold the opinion that you can’t train people to have compassion. Either it’s there or it’s not.

          • When I was fired by one of these crawler managers, I had no dole because I was not well enough to cope with the process of claiming. I lived in debt for a year until the first part of my unfair dismissal payout came through. So I really take issue with this notion that it is impossible to lose your job in this situation. Not that I am recommending such a person throw in the towel. The reality is that it won’t be long before the council gets rid of this person anyway, to save money and hassle.

            Perhaps we can change the focus a little bit. Imagine being the 70-year-old man, facing certain death in below-zero temperatures on the street if the council does not condescend to grant him a grotty, bug-infested set of four walls. Can you imagine what he went through, day after day, awaiting the outcome of his appeal? Can you imagine how he battled suicide hour after hour, day after day? I have been through this waiting for appeals, first when I lost my job and then when I lost benefit. So it is more than a little difficult to feel sorry for this “poor” highly-paid council officer and his moral dilemma. The rest of us have no trouble working out the answer.

      • I reckon the Council Review Officer should have taken the matter up with his Union. It’s management bullying.

        • Exactly, Trev. That’s where I would have started, although my experience has shown me that management often have no clue. They issue instructions and then forget about them. Sometimes it’s not very wise to draw attention to yourself by putting in a grievance when you could just ignore management and carry on with your job as normal.

  2. Just another ‘hostile environment’ for claimants, immigrants and the homeless.
    It goes right through the whole system now.

    • This hostile environment is also affecting those that are tasked with administrating the system, I have had a work coach recently break down in tears after I refused to sign up to some crap scheme.

      • I can imagine it, Paul…

        Work coach: “Go to crappy scheme.”

        Paul: “No.”

        Work coach: “You MUST go, otherwise I MUST sanction you.”

        Paul: “I don’t care if I die. I’m ready to go anyway.”

        Work coach: “Waaaaah! Somebody threatened suicide! Waaaaaaah! My conscience hurts. Waaaaaah!” It’s not my fault that I choose to work in this sh1thole! Waaaaaaah!”

        • Alison, I think you need to grow up a little. It’s not always possible for someone to just throw in a job, especially in today’s hostile environment. It’s very hard for individuals to take a stand, and there is little support for those who do.

          Many workers have commitments, such as a family to support, and an automatic sanction wouldn’t help there.

          It’s not just millennials that have been screwed over, but pretty much all of us. A bit of understanding, compassion and maturity would not come amiss.

          And be careful about accusing people of working in shitholes, as most of us end up working in shitholes as we have no other option. Even the worker in Tesco, Asda or Morrisons is working in a shithole – they may not be oppressing workers in the UK, but by working for these companies they are involved in the oppression of workers in many different countries – and I’m not condemning anyone but people like the Tories for that. Most people have little real choice when it comes to the jobs they do.

          • SOME OF US LOST OUR JOBS! WE DID THAT!

            I KNOW WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT!

            GROW UP YOURSELF, PADI! CLEARLY YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT IT, NEVER BEEN THROUGH IT YOURSELF AND THINK YOU HAVE THE WHATEVER TO TALK DOWN TO ME!

            YOU’RE SO NAIVE IT’S UNBELIEVABLE! HOW MANY PEOPLE LIVE ON THE DOLE? HOW DO THEY PAY BILLS? HOW MUCH LONGER IS THE COUNCIL GOING TO PAY A REVIEW OFFICER IF HE’S NOT EVEN ALLOWED TO DO A REVIEW ANY MORE?

            HOW MANY PEOPLE GO THROUGH ARBITRATION AND THE TRIBUNAL SYSTEM DAY AFTER DAY ABOUT THESE EXACT SAME GRIEVANCES AT WORK? A BIT OF HELP AT THE HOUSING OFFICE WOULD GO A LONG WAY.

          • Padi, as a so-called “mature” non-millennial, perhaps you can explain to us millennials exactly HOW and WHY you have let our country go so far DOWN? I mean what a fat lot of good your so-called “maturity” did for our country, eh?

          • Yep, Padi, be careful of accusing people of working in “shitholes”, now that you have extended the definition to all our supermarket workers as well.

        • I never threatened suicide or anything of the sort the scheme was not mandatory, I stood my ground even though they tried to pressure me.

          I understand the rules better than most work coaches so I was in no danger of starving.

          I also understand that there is pressure from both sides of desk on work coaches, so I took no joy from the fact they broke down.

          • If it wasn’t mandatory and you weren’t going to be sanctioned, why was she upset?

          • They broke down because they are being pressured into achieving targets.

            I refuse to be pressured, bothered, encouraged whatever they like to call it and learned the rules enough to have no fear and stand my ground, they try to make us believe they are in control of our lives and have to comply with every instruction but that is simply not the case the Law is above the DWP.

            So the point they broke down was when I said there is a fine line between encouraging and bullying.

      • Very true Paul. The DWP have the worst rate in the civil service for people being absent, or on sick-leave for stress.
        The system is traumatic not only for claimants, but in many cases for those who have to administer it.

        • If they had a decent union that actually stood up for civilised values they’d not only help their members but the rest of us too. But the PCS is as craven as any mainstream union.

          I don’t know about other areas, but in my area it’s a hot bed of SWP ‘activists’ for whom ordinary folk, (claimants, members of the PCS) who are basically cannon fodder. But then, what do we expect from rape denialists?

          • I didn’t find my union very helpful either, Padi (in my life you consider so short and childish).

        • I know a nut who befriended a Romanian woman who used to work for ATOS until she had a mental breakdown. I’m sure it was very kind of him to look out for her (unless there was more to te relationship than that), but all I can say is what goes around comes around, what goes up must come down…

    • The Tories have turned this whole country into an “Hostile Environment”in every respect, Benefits, homelessness, Bedroom Tax, Crime out of control, thousands using foodbanks, Councils barely able to function, Police cuts, NHS meltdown, etc. etc. It’s the total breakdown of Society in Tory Britain.

      • Yes, I agree. It’s meant to make it so hard to live on benefits that people will get a job or go back to their own country.

  3. Well obviously this is really dreadful, but of course it all makes sense when you consider how frequently managers are parachuted into an organisation, from a management consultancy or similar, not to do the job correctly but to cut corners and ride roughshod over the law, which was exactly what happened to me. I said no and I got fired. I sued and won.

    Were I working as a council review officer, I would think about the 70-year-old man, not the beasts from Housing Options (and they really are BEASTS). I would be pleased to do anything to make their jobs as difficult as possible, if only to avenge their decisions to refuse to help homeless people in the first place.

    As for private medical advice, I think it should be outlawed. Corruption and incompetence is RIFE. I’ve experienced it both in applying for council housing and in Occupational Health at work. DON’T LET PEOPLE DO THESE JOBS WITHOUT A BRITISH MEDICAL QUALIFICATION!!!

    This really is yet another example of how we, as British millenials, have been SCREWED.

  4. Welcome back Kate. This is still the No.1 site on the internet for the real truth about the austerity policies and their effects. P.S. You have invented the self-generating blog, no new article, but still 800+ comments !

  5. My own worry is that by the time Labour get a chance to take over, this is all going to be set in stone. Universal Credit, too big and too expensive to dismantle.
    Massive cuts to housing, social services, adult care, everything.
    How are they going to put it all back ?

    • I’ll give you a clue: it’s not really up to them, it’s up to us, and we have to make it crystal clear that we won’t accept anything else from Comrade Corbyn other than the complete dismantling of this truly evil system that’s been set up to enslave people.

      How do we do this? We just make them understand that we’ll do things like picket their constituency offices, seek to inform the public of how bad this system is, use whatever means at our disposal to remind people that Labour has been complicit in introducing this system.

      It may seem idealistic to suggest such simple things can make a difference, but it’s small things like this that repeated hundreds of time up and down the UK can make a huge difference, and are probably more effective than huge demos in London.

      It’s about building a movement. It would be slow to build that movement, but then, think about it, it’s taken the Tories nearly 40 years to achieve this. Hopefully we can change things for the better in much less time than that, but we do need a movement, something along the lines of what happened over the Poll Tax, but we need to ensure that the movement isn’t hijacked by the SWP or fellow travellers, and we must also make sure that we won’t accept UC under a different name, which is all that happened with the Poll Tax – Council Tax is hardly radically different to the Poll Tax, so we’d need clear ideas about what we’d be prepared to accept as a replacement.

      Universal Credit is big, and it has been expensive, but that’s all the more reason why it must be abolished, to show that we have the power to do that, as only then will politicians get the message that they must listen to us. As for a replacement, perhaps it might be instructive to take another look at the Beveridge Report that founded the system that lasted until recently – it worked pretty well, people by and large understood it, and knew how to negotiate it, (despite some politicians being of the opinion that the poor, the unemployed, the disabled are all automatically dunces) and it was relatively humane. The new system is hardly any of these things, so it should be relatively easy to start an opposition movement, especially as those in work on a low income are going to be affected big time.

      But it’s crucial that we consider the system we want, not one that the politicians want to impose on us. It’s our system, we will have to pay for it, it’s ours, so we decide what it is.

      Simple, yes, naive, probably, possible? Yes, if enough of us share that vision.

      • Yes, Padi, talk about immaturity…

        It seems to me the problem is not being accused of being dunces, it’s being accused of immaturity. Also, it’s people turning against their own kind, e.g. focussing their criticism on Labour, rather than taking their demo/grievance to the TORIES, who are IN CHARGE of the system.

  6. Universal Credit has so far cost £ 15.8 Billion Pounds. A vast sum of money.
    For the same amount you could build another five, £ 3 Billion Pound
    Nuclear Aircraft carriers similar to the Queen Elizabeth !
    And still have 0.8 Billion, ( £ 800 Million ), to buy another eight US-built F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters at £100 Million each.

    HMS Prince Harry
    HMS Prince Edward
    HMS Theresa May
    HMS Meghan Markle
    HMS Jeremy Corbyn

    • Such vast expenditure makes one wonder why. It’s not about the unemployed really, as they are just the ‘reserve army’. It’s more about the enslavement of the entire workforce. That would justify such huge sums of money; a mere pittance in the shape of things where the employers will enjoy huge benefits.

      • Padi, I think the idea is to convert the unemployed – and disabled – into a reserve temping agency. However, we know the problems with employment agencies: they offer no security and no way to pay bills in between jobs. So we need a safety net.

        Also, the sick and disabled are not able to function as an employment agency because they are not well enough to work.

        And some of us have found it too difficult to do agency work because of the uncertainty about going somewhere we’ve never been before on a weekly or even daily basis. I don’t find the ads on Universal Jobmatch helpful to me because they tell me absolutely nothing about the nature or location of the work. I know some former colleagues found they were working in post after post in the same workplace, though, so it wasn’t that uncertain after all.

      • Capitalism needs unemployment to fill the void when companies grow or new are ones created, unemployed are like you say a reserve army ready and waiting to take up the slack.

        So It makes no sense whatsoever to starve them and drag them so low down they do not have the resources to take up that slack.

        Productivity does not increase if you increase the workforce as we all can see by the numbers, increasing the work force actually decreases productivity.

        If the workforce was reduced by allowing those who struggle and wish to have some semblance of a life outside of work with a unconditional basic income productivity would naturally increase and offset the cost.

    • Good one Richard. But you’d be a bit short of planes.
      Still I suppose Jeremy Corbyn wouldn’t want any planes on his carrier. So you could put two planes each on the other four .
      Plenty of parking room anyway.

  7. BTW, apparently there was a Channel 4 Dispatches programme last night (Mon. ) about what a shambles Universal Credit is, but I missed it as I only just heard about it.

  8. And it’s State Pensioners that will be the next target. Already there has been something in the press about so-called ‘Silver Skivers’.
    These Silver Skivers are people who have retired, and then stopped working altogether. Yes really ! And have no intention of doing another day’s work in their life. Shocking as that may sound to a Tory Minister.
    As opposed to the Silver Strivers. These people have kept on working past retirement. Not for them lazing about at home or going to bingo. The most committed of them don’t even take their pension, they are that good. Talk about virtue-signalling. This already happens in North Korea. Where some eager citizens refuse to retire, so as not to be a burden on the state or their Glorious Leader, Kim Jong-Un. If you time it right you can actually work yourself to death.
    And if you pre-pay your funeral, then Bob or Kim, is your uncle.

    • I don’t like the sound of this, it’s very sinister & doesn’t bode well. I bet they’ll want to start docking peoples’ Pensions unless they carry on working, or if they’ve been living on Benefits prior to Retirement. Nothing would surprise me of this lot. This is what 40 years of neoliberalism has lead to.

      • I expect it’s a way to cut back pensions and pensioner benefits, yes. Thing is, it’s the [old] people who vote Tory. So many of them are fine about punishing people of working age on the basis that they don’t work hard enough, but the moment they get hit themselves, the word “vulnerable” starts floating about. They get enraged and refuse to vote. Look at the Dementia Tax. It was a very bad idea for the Tories to announce that just before an election.

    • At long last this might end support for the Tories among the pensioner population. Yippee! We’ll get a Labour government!

  9. A day without Ushanka is a day in the sun,
    But without my little Russian friend,
    It’s not nearly as much fun.
    Rest quietly babooshka,
    Think of winter and of rain,
    And the blessed time to come,
    When I hold you in my arms again.

    • Words fail me.

      Now we know how the unemployment figures can look so rosy.

      I’m sick and tired of politicians pledging to END rough-sleeping. Reduce, yes. End, no. You can’t END rough-sleeping. There will always be someone somewhere curled in a sleeping bag, even if only due to drink or drugs.

      What’s worse is that the time to “end” rough-sleeping comes and goes, but nothing changes. It’s stupid. What’s the point in making the pledge? Nobody believes them anyway.

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