I recently wrote about Sara Abdalla, 30. Sara is a Newham woman who is homeless. She has two young children. The eldest is in school in Newham. Sara has a job in Newham as well.
Newham council recently told Sara that she would have to move to Birmingham for permanent housing. Sara requested a review of that decision. A review officer upheld the council’s decision to send Sara to Birmingham. You can read that letter (and the dreadful tone of it) here.
Today, the council took Sara to court to try and deny her the right to appeal that decision. The council said Sara was out of time to make an appeal.
Sara – like so many homeless people I deal with – missed the appeal deadline because she found the bureaucracy so confusing and overwhelming. We all do. Council and DWP bureaucracies are literally designed to exclude anyone who isn’t an administrative genius. Sara was (and is) also dealing with a multitude of issues to do trying to secure housing while holding down a job and organising a young family. She also thought at one stage that an appeal had been filed by a lawyer who represented her – after a fashion – for a time. It hardly matters. The point is that the complexity regarding who was and is meant to do what and when was impossible. It so often is.
The thing is – I’ve been copied into emails with Rokhsana Fiaz, the new Newham mayor. She’s been promising to sort this mess out. So much for that. Sara has been trying to get hold of a housing officer who has apparently gone on holiday. She’s no closer to a solution to her housing problems than she ever was.
Meanwhile, Sara gets threatening courts summons and papers in which the council tries to deny her an appeal. It’s no wonder people lose it when they have to try and navigate all of this.
I have questions (I can’t put them to Newham Council sadly, because I’m on the council’s blacklist):
- Why did the council make such an enormous damn effort to stop a homeless woman appealing a decision to send her to a part of the country where she knows nobody and has no work? She was threatened with intentional homelessness if she did no go to Birmingham. So what if she was out of time to make an appeal. Why wouldn’t the council let it go?
- Why has the mayor been saying that Sara’s case will be looked at again by the council – at the exact same time that the council is dragging Sara to court to deny her the right to appeal housing decisions?
What a mess. Thousands of homeless people have to put up with this multilayered crap.
Oh yes – there’s is also this: The council was late with its own notice to the courts regarding Sara’s right to appeal.
Says the council in its letter to the court:
“A (Sara) seeks permission to appeal out of time… R (the council as Respondent) was required to file and serve notice in writing indicating whether that application was opposed by 4pm 25th April 2018.
On 26th April 2018, R wrote both to the Court and to A indicating that A’s application was opposed and apologised for the late provision of notice.”
Oh the irony. Council gets to miss deadlines. Sara doesn’t. That’s how things roll today.
I’ve got more so will come back. Sara won today anyway. I presume she now has the right to make that appeal.
Oh yes – there is something else. The council sought costs from Sara for today’s effort:
Says the letter from the council to the courts:
…”the Court is invited to dismiss A’s (Sara’s) application for permission to appeal out
of time and to grant an order for costs in R’s (the council’s) favour.”
That’s charming, that is – an attempt to pile debt on a low paid woman who has nowhere to live. Lovely. Sara was very upset indeed when she saw that.