Worried about being moved to the same borough as your violent ex-partner’s family? Tough. Get going.

Here’s a paragraph from a council letter which dismisses a homeless woman’s concerns about being moved to the same borough as members of her violent ex-partner’s family.

You need to see this. It is a common example of the sort of thing that homeless households are told when they challenge a council decision to send them out of borough:

The letter from the council officer says:

“You advised me that your ex partner who you fled whilst residing at [word removed] due to domestic violence. His [word removed] lives in [word removed], but you could not provide me with details such as address or full name but you were confident that [word removed] lives in [word removed]. I looked at your previous notes on file, your housing officer at that time made enquiries with the police, police confirmed that they did not state that you were not safe in the borough of…. were [sic] you fled from, neither did they exclude [word removed] as a risk area and your last reported incident was July 2016…Based on all the information this would suggest that the incidents are historic…”

Really.

I’m seeing more and more letters where every single one of a homeless family’s reasons for wanting to stay in the area that they know are dismissed out of hand by their council.

People tell their council that they want to stay in their borough for their children’s schools, for important health services, for local networks they rely on, and even for safety. They’re entitled to ask their councils to consider these circumstances when councils are looking at where to house them.

Unfortunately, none of the points that homeless families raise seem to rate. People are perfectly entitled to ask a council to review its choice of home for them, but they might as well not bother. I get the distinct feeling that decisions to send homeless people away are made before people even walk through a council’s doors.

So.

The recipient of this letter, Christine (named changed), is a young homeless Newham mother.

Christine and her children live in a single room temporary accommodation flat. They’ve been there for a year. Christine says Newham council told Christine that the accommodation would be short term. She and the kids are still there – all living in one tiny room together.

In its letter, Newham council says that Christine’s only option for longer-term housing is a privately rented flat in another borough (I’m withholding the name of the borough, because of Christine’s safety concerns).

Christine says the council has told her that she risks making herself intentionally homeless if she refuses to go.

But Christine has good reasons for not wanting to go.

As we’ve seen, one of those good reasons is that Christine doesn’t want to move to the area that the council proposes because a member of her violent ex-partner’s family lives there.

Christine’s problem is that she has not been able to prove that easily. Christine says she isn’t even sure where to start.

This problem comes up time and time again when homeless people ask for housing help from councils (and for benefits help from the DWP).

People can’t always give councils or the DWP the evidence and/or paperwork that the excessively bureaucratic public sector demands. Not everyone who has spent years moving from one crappy rental to another has a tidy and up-to-date filing cabinet or contacts book.

Nonetheless, public sector bureaucracies demand paperwork and evidence, evidence, evidence. I’ve sat in meetings with people who’ve been denied crucial rent money because the officer in front of them has decided that another piece of paper is required. Forcing stressed people to chase and present pieces of paper and official letters so that they can get benefits and housing is one of austerity’s special tortures.

Christine says there have been remarriages and name and address changes since she last had contact with her ex-partner’s family. As you might imagine, Christine is reluctant to contact her ex-partner’s family for birth certificates, or bank statements, for proof of relationships and of addresses.

Still, authorities insist that these situations are simple.

You’ll see in the letter that the council says that Christine shouldn’t worry.

The council says that two years have passed since Christine’s last threatening experience with her partner.

“This suggests that the incidents are historic,” the council says.

So that’s all right then, I guess. Let’s hope that the council is right.

—–

You see what I am getting at here.

I’m saying that we’ve reached a point where the default council position is that a homeless person is fabricating, or at least exaggerating, their concerns by definition. Think we’ve been at that point for a while.

I’m saying that there is no sense that councils err on the side of even fairness, or even caution, when making decisions where to house homeless people.

It seems to me that things only change (by “change” I mean “improve vaguely to the point where the homeless person might finally get a council response to an email”) when campaign groups and/or lawyers get involved and apply pressure.

Outside of that, you see some horrible things.

I’ve written about some of those things before.

Readers of this site will know that I’ve published stories with a council homelessness officer who has reported outrageous examples of indifferent to violence.

This officer was one of the few who actually overturned a few intentional homelessness decisions.

This officer was also called in by management to explain why they’d overturned council decisions not to help homeless people.

In one case, this officer overturned an intentional homelessness finding made in the case of a woman who left her flat and neighbourhood to escape a man who’d raped her.

In another, the officer overturned an intentional homelessness decision made against a woman who was evicted for rent arrears after her abusive husband left and stopped paying rent.

God only knows how often these things go on.

I’d say very often.

I’d ask Newham council for comment on this, except that I’m blacklisted by the council press office. I’ve seen emails which say that the council is looking at some of these situations. Can’t say I’m holding my breath, but there we go.

11 thoughts on “Worried about being moved to the same borough as your violent ex-partner’s family? Tough. Get going.

  1. I’m wondering why a Labour controlled council has blacklisted you – I also wonder what Jezzer’s response to that knowledge would be? Have you asked him, or thought about asking him Kate? After all, it’s a bit rich a council that doesn’t have any Tory councillors is doing the Tories dirty work. It seems to me that it’s increasingly easy to be labelled as a nuisance, described as making ‘vexatious’ allegations, or to be blacklisted, just as you have for merely seeking justice. I know that even being assertive with a DWP advisor is enough for them to threaten bringing an interview to an end, and calling for security to escort someone from the premises. There is something seriously wrong when the authorities can so easily stifle challenges. It’s certainly not democratic.

    • It all stemmed from the work I did on the Focus E15 mothers.

      The council (ie Robin Wales) said I was aggressive and uncouth and some other balls. They actually blacklisted me early on – only a couple of stories in when I hadn’t really had the chance to be particularly uncouth. They also wrote to the NUJ (my union) to tell them I was too unreconstructed for their tastes etc blah blah blah.

      I actually think I have great manners and that you can take me just about anywhere, but there you go. There’s always someone who isn’t happy.

      I would have thought that now that R Wales has gone, though, the new administration might want to roll out the welcome mat, or, at least, let me visit through a back entrance under the cover of night etc.

      All very sad.

      Dunno if Jez would care. I’m not particularly fond of most Labour councils and Islington recently came to my attention in a not-good way, so could be a while before Jez has me round. Pity. Quite like the look of his place.

      • I’m with you re: Labour councils… I live in South Wales, which should say enough, they’ve been in power here, with no serious challenge for the past 100 years.

        ‘Agressive and uncouth’ covers a lot of things, and sounds like the kind of off pat label that’s kept on a shelf somewhere ready for use when the buggers have their backs up against a wall. I can’t imagine what on earth they meant by ‘unreconstructed’ they should try a Labour councillor from the South Wales Valleys sometime.

        • Councils can be extremely precious. They really do go to war with their own constituents if those constituents get too mouthy. Hence the disproportionate responses to focus e15, opponents of the Haringey dev project etc. Councils were trying to stop filming of public meetings at one point. They can be right snowflakes.

    • Note that I’m not defending these councils! I was screwed around by a housing officer in a Labour council last year when I was homeless.

      However, I suspect that most councils do this. Very few councils have enough social housing or temporary accommodation within their area to house all the homeless/about-to-be-homeless people who come to them. As a result, my council and many others leave men with no provable vulnerabilities out in the cold, which is disgusting. They deserve help, no matter how “strong” they are. Non-vulnerable women are often left without help as well. This doesn’t cut down the numbers enough for many councils, though.

      Classing vulnerable people as intentionally homeless gets rid of another chunk of people, disgusting as that is. This almost happened to me (despite the fact that I have both physical and mental health disabilities, am in the ESA support group, and receive PIP) because I left on the date I was told to instead of staying and forcing my landlord to evict me. This policy is even more disgusting. Two of the reasons I have severe mental health problems are sexual abuse as a child and a violent rape 5 years ago. If they’d left me to sleep rough… Luckily I had friends who let me sleep at theirs, I did some cat-sitting in return for being able to stay with the cat, etc. Most people aren’t that lucky. It still screwed me up.

      Anyway. Councils do this because they’re overwhelmed, underfunded, and can’t do much about it. That is the fault of the central government, who have been cutting funds to local councils for years. However, the local councils are still at fault for the things they do to homeless people. It makes me sick.

      • I hear what you are saying Jools, and your predicament sounds absolutely horrible. However, powerless as councils try to tell us they are, they could do a heck of a lot more than they are doing. All of them have publicity departments, and if they had a will to do it they could propagandise the hell out of it, tellin all that the reason behind why their services are so crap. Many of them have Labour MPs who only seem to act when it’s electorally expedient, i.e. when there are votes in it, rather than acting from principle, as we have recently seen with the concerns of some MPs over the further implementation of Universal Credit. You’re absolutely right that the situation is disgusting. But it’s also disgusting that things were allowed to get so bad, and in this the Labour Party are complicit because they have not robustly opposed with every ounce of their being the erosion of the social security system that so many depend on. Indeed, many of them have gleefully joined in the rhetoric over scroungers and skivers, creating the toxicity that then allows people to treat others as somehow less human than they are, and therefore less entitled. A few years ago, a German academic, (I forget her name) had done some research into how prejudice in humans works – it all has to start with a very subtle shift in attitude, beginning with seeing another person as somehow slightly less human than themselves in order to deny them their rights. Of course, this is a slippery slope, and we all should know where it leads, and the only response should is an absolutely zero tolerance.

        The politicians who have recently voiced concerns over the roll out of Universal Credit know all this, but have only become ‘concerned’ now because they know that it could affect the votes they get. They have already cast the single unemployed, the single homeless, (and a fair number of families who have become homeless too) as less than others, not worth worrying about because they don’t vote. Whilst I would guess that none of those politicians has thought the repercussions of their actions, (or the lack of action) through to their logical conclusion, they have, nonetheless, allied themselves with the likes of Duncan -Smith, Freud, (who was appointed by Labour) and McVey who knew exactly what they were doing, which at it’s worst, seems like a passive form of Aktion T4. Even at best it’s causing needless misery and suffering. Politicians of all stripes should hang their heads in shame, but the likes of IDS, McVey, Freud and the other callous psychopaths should be on trial in the Hague.

  2. I suppose in many respects Councils are bound by their own bureaucracy, which stifles flexibility, plus there seems to b e an overall high & mighty ‘we-know-best’ culture. and so they become hostile to challenge. In my experience Housing Associations are less so. A few yrs ago I moved out of a large flat that was too big for my needs (expensive to heat + Bedroom Tax) & transferred to a more suitable smaller flat in same block. The large flat was immediately re-let to a new tenant, a woman with 2 children & a baby, who said that her husband had left her. Within a week the hubbyhad miraculously returned and they seemed happy enough, no signs of marital problems at all. I’m pretty sure she made it up about her husband having left her just to gain priority for getting the flat, and the HA couldn’t really disbelieve her or ask her to prove it.

    • And tbh I don’t think it would have even occurred to the HA to question her claims or motives. It was relatively easy to get a flat in that neighbourhood and they would have just been happy to get a tenant in there asap. The HA was also quite flexible and amenable to people changing flats too, I lived in 3 different flats in the same block in the space of about 18 yrs, and I knew others who had transferred to various different flats in the area a few times. You could even request a specific property without any need for bidding, they just took your word for why you wanted/needed a change. You could also quite easily arrange for them to house a friend if you knew of someone who needed a flat & knew of one that was available. I would imagine that doing any of that would have been a much more complicated & difficult process with a Council.

      • Sounds like you have a really decent HA Trev. I know that some HAs still hold to the old ethic of HAs of being far less authoritarian than councils, which is why and how most HAs that date from the 70s came into being. They were seen as a more democratic option than council housing, which up until 1977 was quite difficult to get, as it wasn’t allocated on a needs basis.

        However, the nature of most HAs seems to have changed radically, and now many of them are just wannabe corporations with a rapacious appetite for growth – i.e. taking over smaller HAs. I don’t know what the situation is in England, but in Wales CEOs of HAs are paid according to how many tenancies the HA has.

        I’m glad that you have managed to transfer to different properties with such apparent ease, that’s the way it should be. I thought about transferring, but I would have to join a private site, and pay a membership fee, as the HA I am with does not pay for that kind of thing. I might be able to change where I live within the HA, but I think I probably already live in the most desirable area where the HA has properties, so why would I want to move anywhere else in the city? It wouldn’t be so bad if the rent levels were reasonable, but they are not, and in real terms have increased by 50% since I started my tenancy. Increases in line with inflation I think are fair enough, but such an increase is really taking the piss, especially as it just seems to go on the creation of non-jobs and CEO inflated salary.

        • I’m not with them anymore, I moved out of that city due to some personal problems I was having and am now in privatedrrented. That HA was ok though, but I did see some changesover the years, chiefs & indians came & went, some were better than others, and whereasit began as a very local organization it was eventually absorbed into the much larger Yorkshire Housingwith head office in York, local rent offices closed down, and became more of an ALMO.

  3. I wonder why it’s so difficult for the council to offer another flat in another out-of-borough area, so the lady can choose to live away from the ex if she wants to. It’s hard to believe there are no properties available in any other authority in the whole country, except the one where the ex lives!

    Not that I’m in favour of social cleansing – and it raises issues about democracy because those treated badly by their local council are moved out of the area, so they can’t vote the administration out.

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