Islington council: Dunno how many disabled people we have stuck in inaccessible flats or buildings they can’t get out of. Wouldn’t tell you anyway

Readers of this site will know that I’ve been posting stories about Ann Sparling, a 47-year-old disabled woman who can’t leave her 4th floor Islington council flat, because she can’t walk up or down the four flights of stairs. There is no lift in her building.

I asked the Islington Council press office what procedures the council had in place for ensuring that people in Ann’s situation wouldn’t be stuck in their flats in an emergency.

I also asked if the council knew how many disabled people were trapped in similar situations.

Got no answers there.

Ann reported, however, that when a council officer finally got in contact with Ann about her situation, the council officer wondered the same sort of thing – “wonder how many people are stuck in the same situation?”

Ever the trier, I sent an FOI to Islington in August with those questions.

The answers were hopeless.

For example:

Q: How many of those households with a disabled member who are requesting transfers are requesting ground floor flats, because they are housed in flats which are up one or more flights of stairs?

Answer: “We are unable to answer this question. Housing information (e.g. the floor level of a property) and Adult Social Care information (e.g. whether a service user has a disability) are stored on different systems and it is not possible to cross reference this information.”

and:

Q: How many households with a disabled member of the household are currently housed in council flats which are inaccessible to disabled people?

Answer: “…For those with existing tenancies in council properties, the council would only be aware if a resident is disabled if they self-identify as such and have notified the council. Additionally, housing information (e.g. the floor level of a property) and Adult Social Care information (e.g. whether a service user is disabled) are stored on different systems and it is not possible to cross reference this information.”

I’m not even sure what that means. I do know that notifying the council re: your disability and needing a transfer because of it means absolutely nothing. Ann notified the council of her situation several years ago and has sent no end of paperwork since, but remained stuck in her flat.

This is garbage. How many disabled people are stuck in flats in buildings that they can’t easily leave? What happens to those people an emergency? What happens if the fire brigade asks if there are disabled people stuck in inaccessible flats? Do they get the same Computer Says No? Does anybody care?

51 thoughts on “Islington council: Dunno how many disabled people we have stuck in inaccessible flats or buildings they can’t get out of. Wouldn’t tell you anyway

  1. I would question the ability to cross reference on different systems, the costs could be a limiting factor but the process itself should be possible.

  2. So it appears that Councils don’t keep or compile any information relating to tenants’ disabilities, so what do they do with all that tickbox information they routinely gather under the guise of equality monitoring? Presumably they simply ‘monitor’ it and tick some boxes then.

    I wonder if Housing Associations do the same, or do they use the info to compile a checkable database? I can remember having been asked to tick various boxes on numerous times over the years with an H.A. to say my ethnicity, gender, sexuallity, and I’m pretty sure there was also a question about “do you consider yourself to have a Disability” too. I often wondered why they wanted to know whether or not I’m a black Irish Transsexual Hindu with a wooden leg.

    • It is just basically an information gathering excercise. It’s done to satisfy performance indicators, basically so the orgtanisation can itself tick boxes for central govermment departments. Other than publishing statistics I don’t think much other use is made of the data.

      It really is true that different varieties of information are stored in different databases, sometimes for good reasons. It’s also the case that often databases are designed badly, or are set up without thinking through futures uses and are often mind bogglingly complex, which provides ample scope for human error.

      My own experience with council data systems might not be representative, but one system I used it was regarded as a major achievement if you could actually successfully log into the system in the first place. The second big achievement was managing to use it for more than five minutes before it crashed. Successfully updating or adding a new record was fraught in that once the record was entered, the whole system needed to update before another entry could be added or amended, which took an age (<30 mins at times) and could also be affected by a crash – thus risking the update not taking place, or the creation of a partial record. There were also some procedures that required elaborate and arcane actions to do, increasing complex and grounds for error. Updating this system was regarded as one of the least popular tasks, and as a result the system coudln't really be relied on for any kind of accuracy.

      It doesn't make a lot of difference whether it's a council or a housing association, as both use similar systems and there is a lot of information interchange between the two. The information they gather is the kind of raw data that bureaucracies like to collect, just because they can. In reality a lot of it is just us giving away power to them, and the the information gathered is probably more likely to be used against us rather than to make our lives better. Already the kind of powers that councils and housing associations have over those they provide housing for are excessive, in my opinion, and serve no function other than it making it easier for them to control those elements they consider to be a threat.

      Personally I refuse to provide anything more than can be legally justified, and any careful scrutiny will show that many of the questions are just data mining excercises that we don't actually have to comply with. This info can then be sold on to commercial interests, and in this present climate where most bodies serving social needs it must be increasingly tempting to sell this variety of data. Personally I think there should be a complete ban on the sale of data by councils and housing associations, and I'd also like to see much of the power they have to access our private data held by banks and other bodies severely restricted and require a court order to access it. At present it's just far too easy for these bodies to access our data without our consent or knowledge. Furthermore, I would like regulations introduced that stipulate why information is being collected, and for there to be a concrete purpose for this. If someone is, for example. being asked questions about their disabilities, it should be genuinely about providing a suitable support and not merely a data capturing procedure.

      • Yes, GDPR is supposed to take care of some of that, but that won’t help with streamlining in a way that is actually useful. I think what Islington council is saying here is a) get lost and b) we don’t know how many people are in this sort of situation – and possibly don’t want to, given pressures on housing. That’s no excuse, of course. I know there is pressure on housing but that doesn’t mean people’s lives can be risked as a result. There’s always a way.

        • I agree, Islington council is probably telling you to get lost! Somewhat worrying when the constituencies are represented by, respectively, Thornbury and Corbyn. This sort of thing doesn’t auger well for the future.

          • Has Anne been in touch with adult social care services and or a disability rights advisor ?

          • I think even the Labour run Councilshave allowed themselves to be influenced,or become infected,by the prevailing Austere Victorian-esque attitude thatwe should all justput up & shut up,be gratefulwe’ve got a roof, any roof, overour heads and justknowour place.No matter thatit’s 5 flightsup with no lift, or the roofleaks,the heating doesn’t workor the wallsaremouldy,justbe jolly well gratefulfor whatyou’ve got and go away. (& be grateful for a knackered old phone tha t won’t type properly!)

          • I think they want us to conjure up lots of money we don’t have and rent/buy privately. That’s always the message I get if I contact the council.

        • Everything is geared towards reactive rather than pro active, They need Anne to fall, finally become unable to climb the stairs and become stranded or worse before the wheels might finally start to turn.

  3. This is such gross incompetence!!! Presumably it is their job to do one search on one computer system, another search on another system and then type the results in a letter to answer your request.

    I had a similar experience of gross incompetence with my local council. I sent a letter about my Council Tax Reduction to the Benefits Service, but it was diverted within the council to the Council Tax department. I received a letter from the Council Tax department telling me that I needed to contact the Benefits Service!!! I had to launch an appeal, in which I asked why two offices in the same council found it so difficult to communicate with one another that they saw fit to ask me, a member of the public, to carry messages for them. Clearly my letter was passed to the wrong office. Send it back? Pick up the phone? Is it really that hard???

    I contacted another council last year about a road safety issue. Every week, I got an automated email headed “task processing”. I waited a month before I received a response from a human being.

    • We are bedevilled by Bureaucracy. Years ago the Student Loans in Glasgow sent me a deferral form to my address in Bradford, the Jobcentre refused to stamp it and gave me an envelope to send it to DWP in Leeds, which I did. A couple of months went by then the form was returned to me from BELFAST! They said I’d not added my NI number so they were unable to stamp it & asked me to do so and return it to Leeds,which I did, then the DWP lost it. Glasgow to Bradford to Leeds to Belfast to Bradford to Leeds…

    • Every Council worker in the country should have gone on strike years ago as soon as all the cuts started happening, and all the Jobcentre staff too, instead of just soldiering on under-funded & short-staffed trying to do an impossible task pretending like nothing happened, whilst people suffer and other organizations like the CAB & the foodbanks desperately struggle to help. Bollocks to Austerity, fuck the Tories, get out on Strike!

  4. This is off the topic of Housing but some of you my find this of interest:

    “DWP’s secret benefit deaths reviews: Universal credit death linked to claimant commitment ‘threats’ ”

    https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/dwps-secret-benefit-deaths-reviews-universal-credit-death-linked-to-claimant-commitment-threats/

    “Vulnerable people are dying on Universal Credit – so the Tories are extending it to the disabled”

    https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/09/22/vulnerable-people-are-dying-on-universal-credit-so-the-tories-are-extending-it-to-the-disabled/

    • Thanks for these Trev. Interesting reading, but rather worrying that the Mayor of Liverpool, trying his best in many ways, spoils it somewhat by stating that Universal Credit is ‘a good ldea’ and fails to mention one other big cause of destitution and poverty – the conditionality and sanctions regime.

      I’m also somewhat bewildered by the notions held by some whotry to appeal to the Tories better nature, as if they implemented the regime ignorant of the ill effects it would impose. The Tories are completely devoid of compassion, and I think more compassion would be found in a rampaging Godzilla than would be in the personage of people like McVile.

      Those campaigning for a softening of approach also seem to forget that they are not dealing with compassionate human beings. People need to be constantly reminded of Aneurin Bevan’s words – that the Tories are lower than vermin.

      • Yes, you can’t reason with Tories, their ideology is psychopathic. You can only fight against them. This is Class War going on out there in Britain,in the Jobcentres, the foodbanks, and the workplace. Universal Credit itself is an act of Class Warfare, and I haven’t heard much being said about it from Labour. All their talk about “Socialism” and how they gonna fix the country, and scarcely a mention of Social Security. “Socialism for today” might just mean “jam tomorrow”

        • Been digging around recently and Labour’s pledge to scrap the “Tories’ austere sanctions regime” are obfuscating the facts and not saying the sanction regime itself.

          And If you look at the present figures sanction figures under the conservatives your less likely to be sanctioned than if under Labour pre 2012.

          • They did say something recently about Basic Income but I havent heard mention ofit inConference,unless I’ve missed that?

          • Under the Tories, sanctions got longer and they were extended to many sick and disabled people.

        • Corbyn’s promis e of 400,000 ‘Green’ jobs sounds promising though if it ever happens. I don’t exactly want to work in a factory making solar panels (some might) but if I could get paid for plantingtrees or installing bird boxes, or something like that, perhap s even cleaningrubbish from riverbanks/etc. might be ok, £100 per day, 3 days a week. Can’t see it happening though.

          • Still at least Labour are now finally saying something about Universal Credit and the whole welfare disaster. Things are so bad now that they are prepared to risk the political fallout.
            Not before time, but maybe they will really do something about it all.

          • If you look at the numbers sanctioned under Labour versus Conservatives something is very telling and in fact under Labour the chances of being sanctioned increase.

            JSA Sanctions under Labour April 2001: 56,366
            JSA sanctions under the conservatives April 2018: 3,968

            https://stat-xplore.dwp.gov.uk/webapi/jsf/login.xhtml

            Obviously a few variables to consider but nonetheless highlight that just scrapping the conservatives sanction regime is not enough Labour need to be clear on this point .

          • I can’t comment on the exact numbers, but I do remember seeing TV reports about a dramatic rise in sanctions and people going hungry as early as 2007. Single parents had to enter the Jobseekers Allowance system when their children were younger, so people were getting sanctioned for missing appointments due to children’s illnesses. These changes came in during the later years of New Labour, about the same time as the Work Capability Assessment was introduced.

            For this reason, many of us are very pleased the Labour Party are returning to the left. We are meant to be the party FOR low-income families, not against them.

            Today, I saw an advert saying you can get up to 85% of your childcare costs covered under Universal Credit. Great. But I’d like to see the government subsidise parents to stay home and provide their own childcare.

          • I agree, the age when single parents must comply with full Job seeking requirements has steadily declined starting with Labour and picked up by the conservatives when your child reached in 2008 single parents must comply with full Job seeking requirements 16 years of age.

            Today 2018 single parents must comply with full Job seeking requirements when the child reaches 3

          • In my view, looking after a 3-year-old is a full-time job and the government should see it that way.

          • Well yes one of the few jobs that are not bullshit is producing and rearing our young and should be rewarded not scorned.

            At one point I had 3 step children one semi adopted child and my own son and found parenting a joy rather than work and during that time I claimed child benefit and EMA until they all turned 21.

            All are working now and they have all got decent Jobs and lives.

          • If full roll out of UC goes ahead next year (combined with Brexit!) I think the shit’s really gonna hit the fan.I don’t think Austerity is going to end anytime soon,it’s going to ge t a whole lot worse,deaths & homelessness will ddramatically increase.

          • My local council have extended their crisis fund to people waiting for benefits, not just people already receiving them. Good news for people waiting for benefits, but of course it shouldn’t be necessary.

          • My council voted against setting up an emergency fund to cope with going full service the tory councillor who said “it might not be as bad as people say”

          • We just have to gamble tha t ‘real’ Socialism under Corbyn will be more equitable than faux Socialism under Blair.

          • Yep disillusioned though that Labour will not say they will end ALL benefit sanctions and under Labours sanction regime we will have a greater chance of being sanctioned.

            Labour also sanctioned ill/disabled ESA 2009 18,846

            Finding it hard to find anything positive in regards to Labours agenda on social security.

            Wrestling with my conscience voting all political parties should stop treating social security like some illegitimate child that no one likes to mention and punished constantly for the sins of the father it should be the bedrock of any civilised society.

          • Yep as you know Green is common usage now amongst the young *You got any Green?” So JC is appealing to the yoot now innit, growing buying selling trading Green to the masses 400,000 “Green Jobs” is a good estimate so by legalising Cannabis he will have kept to his pledge.

            October draws close my crystal ball is tingling the call for another general election grows louder and the outcome of the Tory party conference could be the pivotal moment and the calls to “get the scum out of brum” does not bode well for a non hostile conference but then Tories like hostile environments so shouldn’t complain…..

          • The bedrock ofany civilized society that’s not founded upon the principle oft he PWE and secretly controlled/influenced by esoteric occult secrets.societies people brush tha off as a “conspiracy theory”, but the fact is we British are the subjects of the greatest Alchemical experiment in history.

          • I’ve neverheard “Green” used in tha t context, in Bradford they called i t “herb”

  5. Quite fucking unbelievably there are still some Tory arseholes out there saying that the main cause of the country’s problems is that people won’t get off their arse and get a job, regardless of the fact that the relationship between wages & the cost of living are the worst it’s been for decades so it’s impossible to work your way out of poverty, and regardless of the government’s own claims that unemployment is the lowest it’s ever been, andnot to mention that the Vulture Capitalists were allowed to steal all the money and hoard it offshore.No, It’s all our fault, apparently. Meanwhile, my local foodbank is looking to rent extra storage space to meet increasing demand.

    • All over the media, they say we’re not willing to pick fruit, but I’ve heard that foreign agricultural workers are only earning £5 per hour! Agencies exploit a legal loophole and pay workers the minimum wage in their home country, not the minimum wage in the UK. No wonder they “can’t find” British workers!

      • But they Can’t have it both ways, on one hand claiming unemployment is a t an all time low, then also saying It’s all the fault of the unemployed! It makes no sense.
        The guy who said it (on twi t ter) is a rich Barrister in London. Who probably gets £100 per hour for sitting on his arse doing fuck all.

        Fruit picking isn’t practical / feasible / possible for most of us renting flats in cities.

  6. Yes, Parenting should be regarded as an Occupation in its own right, it’s ridiculous making people comply with all the jobsearch rules when they have little kids to look after. I also think they should relax the rules a bit for people who do voluntary work, at least cut us some slack. I volunteer at a foodbank that is getting evermore busy and now do 2 days a week and it is quite hard work plus I walk there & back, about 3 miles. There wouldn’t even be a need for foodbanks if the country was run right.

    • I have read a few stories where the police have drawn up plans to protect foodbanks should the no deal Brexit cause the chaos as some predict so it might be a good idea investing in some decent body armour .

      • I see chaos looming. The Police won’t be able to cope, I seriously expect Martial Law to be declared. Best stock up your supplies of weed & baked beans!

  7. On the subject of Housing, my neighbour has just given up her flat and is now sofa surfing with a friend, because she couldn’t afford to run the flat. She’s a young woman in her mid-20s who works full time in a bar, she got into huge arrears with Council Tax and Water and she says basically she feels like she is working for nothing, just to pay Bills and Rent. And this is not some luxury flat, we’re not talking London rents here, it’s in Northern England in a slightly crummy flat in a less than desirable area where there has been shootings every week throughout the Summer, the flat rent is £80 p/w, and she doesn’t exactly lead an extravagant lifestyle. This makes a mockery of the Government’s claim to be “making work pay”.

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