Get to the office today or we’ll throw you off the homelessness list: how people with mental health issues are addressed

Update 28 Feb: the council says that it is investigating this situation – to find out how someone living in one of its homelessness hostels came to receive such a letter.

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Original post:

Seriously.

I wrote a fortnight ago about Lukia, a woman with serious mental health difficulties who lives (if “lives” is the word) in a Newham homelessness hostel.

Lukia has previously been in the care of a mental health unit.

She is battling Newham council for permanent housing.

Lukia came home last week to find this note under her door:

The note says:

“You are request [sic] to come into the office in Victoria Street today by 3pm. Failure to do so will lead to you being removed from the homelessness list and you will be asked to leave your home.”

I post this to show you again the way that people with no clout are addressed by authorities.

Every contact is a threat.

People aren’t invited to meetings with council or hostel staff. They’re told to attend, or else.

The “or else” part can be the threat of being thrown off the homelessness list and out of a hostel room, as in this case.

It can be the threat of street homelessness and child removal. Whatever form the “or else” takes, these threats are heavy-handed, dangerous and unjustified.

It’s high time that councillors and MPs addressed this. A shortage of housing does not justify a shortage of decency and care.

Lukia, as I’ve written, has a history of serious mental health difficulties and of being placed in temporary accommodation so vile and substandard that she’s been moved out of it.

She feels that permanent accommodation is her only chance at the stability that might lead to an improvement in her health.

Threats of homelessness hardly help people achieve that.

37 thoughts on “Get to the office today or we’ll throw you off the homelessness list: how people with mental health issues are addressed

  1. There appears to be no letterhead or any other such kind of branding in the pictured document. No letterhead, no legitimate authority?

    Alan Wheatley

    • Totally unprofessional. As for the general tone of telling people what to do in a threatening manner, that is an extension of the whole ‘environment of hostility’ this Government has created.

      • Also it portrays a total lack of respect for the individual. I used to work in a hostel for the homeless, and as part of case work letters needed to be sent out, and although they followed a standard pattern, they were always individualised at least to the extent that the recipient’s correct name was on the letter. It would also be signed by a member of staff where the name was confirmed in print underneath so that the letter was traceable. Appointments were also set with a reasonable period of warning, and could be rearranged if they were inconvenient.

        Even if the recipient took a somewhat casual approach to keeping appointments, (many homeless people develop chaotic lifestyles, which is understandable) there were no huge threats like this, but rather the person would be taken aside and informed as to why attending appointments was important. Eventually most would comply, even if it meant catching them as they returned to the hostel!

        Exclusion/eviction from the hostel was reserved very much for the worst kinds of behaviour, usually serious breaches of the rules where others were put in danger or actually hurt.

  2. This should be on headed paper, if it isn’t then it might be fake, if the tenant goes to the office by 15:00 they should get a photocopy of the letter and confront the council with it as councils use headed paper on all letters as this is typed it would be on headed paper.
    If they deny all knowledge of it then just ignore any more similar letters then if they claim,later on that it’s theirs prosecute them.

  3. This looks like the work of some low-level jobsworth in the council.
    I always remember when a friend of mine had some minor debt problems a few years ago. A so-called ‘court order’ appeared about proceedings in the local magistrates court. At first glance it looked official, coat of arms on headed paper etc.
    But he noticed there was something odd about the case number. As if it had been altered or corrected. So he rang the local magistrates court – they had never heard of this particular case number. It was all a fake. He contacted the firm involved and told them what the court official had said to him. They slammed down the phone on him mid-sentence, and he never heard from them again. So it pays to check these things really are official.

    • This does indeed look shoddy and unprofessional. However, labelling whoever did it a ‘low-level jobsworth’ says more about you than them.

      • Yes, that they are a low level-level jobsworth to bully a desperate woman like this. And you sound like a similar official cretin. Bit too close to home ?

        • Typical Tory troll Jeff. Probably some of council drone himself. No excuse for this sort of attitude.

  4. More DWP shenanigans:

    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/02/19/dwp_health_data_tool/

    The Register has long been critical of the DWP’s (mis)use of IT, and has in the past regularly posted highly critical articles about how the DWP uses technology.; However, it was nice to see that so many in the comments were as convinced as we are as to the integrity and humanity of the DWP – apart from the ubiquitous heartless troll, that is.

  5. Pingback: Get to the office today or we’ll throw you off the #homelessness list: how people with #mentalhealth issues are addressed | Kate Belgrave | Declaration Of Opinion

    • It’s what the whole “nudge theory” is based upon, the assumption that poverty is the fault of the poor, whose behaviour must be changed. They’re fucking Nazis.

      • Unfortunately so many of these official attitudes are now seen as ‘the way things are’, and nothing much can be done about it. When did it become acceptable for terminally ill people to be forced into work ? Or for the DWP to trawl round the hospitals ‘checking ‘ on people ?

        • But isn’t that something that Kitty addresses in her paper? It took the Tories a long time to create the situation we find ourselves in, and that is where an honest socialism, (as distinct from what we get from most of the Labour Party, who have long accepted and internalised neoliberal thinking as being crucial to being elected to government) could score so long as it wasn’t allowed to be hijacked by the various extreme sects. I understand the apparent apathy, but I would suggest that if politicians come along and start speaking the language of the dispossessed then we might find the political landscape transformed into one where all seems possible. Okay, we don’t yet have our own Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Corbyn has been a complete prat over Brexit, (should have backed a strong Remain campaign for a people’s vote – and supported 16-18 year olds voting on it) succeeding in the Labour Party haemorrhaging huge numbers. Sure, he would have lost a few votes, but they wouldn’t represent people supportive of his policies anyway.

          I totally agree with you, it is totally unacceptable for the DWP to engage in the surveillance that it does, but who ultimately is responsible for them thinking they can get away with doing that? It’s us of course, and instead of buying into the despair we should be thinking of ways of engaging with people in the street and pointing out to them in simple, stark terms where all this is leading, and that people who have committed no crime at all are being subjected to vile human rights abuses – and then try to get them to justify their pride in a Great Britain that does that kind of thing! A hard slog, certainly, but very possible and doable.

        • It’s been implemented and imposed upon us by stealth over the last 40 years so that, as new generations arise, only the older ones notice the cultural shift in perceived and accepted notions of ‘normality’ that has occurred.

  6. This note isn’t even grammatically correct. Surely it should read you are requested not you are request??

    • Absolutely correct Kat, but this is a council, where it has often seemed to me that to pick someone up on their grammar is seen to be in some way prejudicial.

      I’m often flabbergasted by the poor grammar and spelling contained in council communications. On one occasion I received a certificate for First Aid training that was supposedly in Welsh, (my chosen language, which has equal legal status in Wales, *sort of*). Not only was the date incorrect, (the certificate was supposed to be valid for ten years, but somehow it had been printed as being valid up to a date prior to me taking the course!) and the issue date was in a mixture of Welsh and English.

      When it comes to signage in Welsh, there are myriad examples of council shoddiness, with mistakes being made almost deliberately on occasions it would seem. It’s down to the same reasons, laziness and a couldn’t give a damn attitude that is all too prevalent amongst some council employees.

        • Me too, and university students who seemingly can’t manage to string a coherent sentence together. It also seems to affect a huge number of so called ‘journalists’ (not including you Kate, naturally :)) who have a poor grip on grammar and are not pulled up for it by their editors – how many times do you hear some usually young reporter come out with a construction like ‘less clothes’ ? I find that quite excruciating, as it should be fewer clothes. There are countless other howlers that are just down to poor discipline, (in the sense of it being insisted that grammar and spelling are important and that errors in them are marked down in essays etc) in our schools and universities.

          • Mine too Trev. Not only were we advised to buy a dictionary, a thesaurus was recommended too. Another of my pet hates is American spelling, largely because people seem to be unaware that the spell checker on their computers can be localised. Also, the use of license where licence should be used, and vice versa, (for those not in the know, one is a verb and the other a noun in British English)

          • Yes, the use of “License” drives me nuts! I regularly see job descriptions stating that either a Forklift or Driving License is required.

  7. Our wonderful government may have the benefits system as ‘digital by default’ to cut down on the numbers of people able to access them, but they have the HMRC system as phone by default so that they can, if not deny refunds, at least delay them as it takes ages to get an answer and virtually nothing can be done online there. I’d like to think that ir was the result of some awful conspiracy, but I think it’s probably more to do with government incompetence.

    On a completely different topic, I was saddned to read in today’s Guardian about teachers struggling to pay for a roof over their heads, but dismayed to read that at least one of them attributes the inability to afford rents to not being paid enough rather than rents being too damned high.

    Seriously, there needs to be an engineered sabotage to make the bottom fall out of the property market, that or strict government controls plus land value taxes that taxes in inverse ratio to land usage – which would mean that land banks would be very heavily taxed, as well as the property empires of the very wealthy. Rents, on the other hand, need to be strictly regulated. I was reading the other day that council rents in 1980 was on average only 7% of wages, which seems about right, though anything up to 10 or 15% would be acceptable – and doable if we had a government with the will to do it. I was just a few minutes ago calculating how much my rent has gone up since 2010, and was a bit shocked to discover that the rent has gone up by 50% whilst prices in general have gone up by a mere 25% since 2010. My projected rent for this coming year is £96.77. Yes, it’s a nice flat in a nice area in town, (so nice that I worry the housing association will want to sell it and capitalise on it’s value).

    • At my last dwelling I was hoping that the HA would sell it as they had a policy of paying displaced tenants £5000 compensation plus rehousing them in another flat. They never did sell off that particular property but I knew other people who had been rehoused (and compensated) , some more than once, when other HA properties in the area had been flogged.

      • Yes, that kind of compensation would be good, though I dare say that for anyone on UC it would be a bit of a curse, as it would be regarded as income. Though I guess you could blow it all in the space of a month and so remain eligible?

        What would concern me more would be the probably shitty area they’d move me to – I’ve been ‘spoiled’ for the past 29 years as the street is tree lined and big Victorian houses , (though where I live is two semi-detached converted to 8 flats – and big flats, so you can imagine how big the houses were) that is a conservation area. I also have access to a huge garden out the back, well, it’s actually two gardens knocked into one. It’s also lovely and quiet here, and it’s very convenient for shopping and the city centre is only a 20 minute walk away.

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