Mayor apologises for letter which threatened to make a woman with serious mental health issues homeless. Now what.

This is an update:

Regular readers will know that I recently published a story about the letter on this page – a letter that threatened a Newham hostel resident with homelessness if she didn’t attend a meeting.

Lukia, the woman who received the letter, has serious mental health issues.

She’s recently been in the care of a mental health unit.

The note said that Lukia would be thrown off the council homelessness list and evicted from her hostel room if she didn’t attend a meeting that day.

Needless to say, Lukia found this note upsetting in the extreme.


When I first posted the letter, some readers here and on facebook felt that it couldn’t be genuine – that staff couldn’t have issued such a rough note on an unheaded piece of paper in such unprofessional way.

I understood that. Nobody wants to think that council and hostel staff professionalism have collapsed to such a point.

Except that professionalism has collapsed – at councils, at the DWP – all over.

In the two recent videos below, Newham mayor Rokhsana Fiaz apologises for that letter. She says that there’s been an investigation into the note and that the person responsible has been sacked.

I’ve heard the same thing on the grapevine, so we’ll go with it for now.

Thing is – what next? – for Newham, for councils generally, for the whole of the public sector?

The political and media classes couldn’t care less that the public sector is actually anarchic a lot of the time. Brexit is their one interest and fatal obsession. You’d be better off asking Santa for housing than putting in a request with that lot.

Politicians like Fiaz do a good line in apologising (google “Rokhsana Fiaz apology” for a look), but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re still overseeing a housing catastrophe. The national housing disaster is going nowhere even faster than Brexit. Sadly, unlike Brexit, it isn’t live-blogged by mainstream press outlets in real time.

The best you can hope for now with local politicians is a kneejerk response that goes in your favour.

I know for a fact how things “work” behind the scenes at certain council offices at the moment, because I’m in contact with officers here and there. Campaigners and welfare advisers bring individual housing cases to the attention of a mayor or a council leader. That mayor or leader rushes down to the housing options team in that council and tells staff to find housing for that individual pronto.

Staff do as they’re told and money is somehow found to meet a local rent (this part always intrigues me), but staff seethe. Some leave. There’s no system as such – just reflex reactions from sensitive politicians. The thing really is lawless – like Brexit, if you will. Sign of the times, I suppose.

If you’re campaigning with people who are homeless, that sensitivity is your main way in. Problem is – not everyone who is homeless knows that, or is in a position to pressure a council.

Lukia has been offered housing.


The videos. I’ve put transcriptions in as the second one in particular is a bit hard to hear:

First video:

[Start this video at about 9.10).

“That is one thing that has been so absent from our council – respect for our residents…and it basically related to a situation a couple of weeks ago where regretfully an officer employed by the council thought in his wisdom, or their wisdom, I don’t know whether it was a he or she, thought in their wisdom to post a note, not even in an envelope, written in bold type, to basically say to this vulnerable woman with children… if you do not contact the council, you are at risk of being homeless – demanding that they contact the council. Rightly, it was brought to my attention. I was appalled by it. We dealt with it and I initiated an immediate investigation… that member of staff is no longer working for the council.”

Second video:

“The incident concerned was the distribution of a very shocking note, in bold typeface on a scrappy piece of paper and hand delivered through the door letterbox of an individual resident of ours at Victoria House, basically demanding that she be in touch with the council, and if she wasn’t in touch with the council she was at risk of homelessness.

“As soon as it was drawn to my attention, I requested with the cabinet members for housing services, Councillor John Gray and Councillor Shaban Mohammed, investigate. There is an internal investigation underway and it transpires that a member of staff, regretfully, issued that note and suffice to say, it has been communicated very strongly by me to officers, senior officers responsible for this area, that this shouldn’t have ever happened.”

34 thoughts on “Mayor apologises for letter which threatened to make a woman with serious mental health issues homeless. Now what.

  1. I don’t know what the answer is. In my experience of dealing with Councils & Councillors in recent years they are largely dysfunctional and bloody hopeless. Just the other day I was directed to a complaint form on the Council website that then said “This form has been archived and is no longer available”, yet the link to the form is still active and no other alternative information was provided. On another occasion a Councillor I had contacted about the problem with litter in my area simply photocopied my letter, complete with my name, address, email address, and then posted it to everyone in my neighbourhood. I should have sued. Another Councillor eventually came to see me over another issue (a well-used footpath that had the entire surface washed away in a freak storm flood) but just shrugged and said “it’s Bradford, there’s nothing I can do”. He also explained why another Councillor had ignored me and not replied, “Oh he won’t do, he lives in Pakistan”. I gave up. The footpath never got repaired. It’s just bloody hopeless trying to deal with the Council over anything.

    • That’s one reason I post these stories… think it’s important to keep showing exactly how much rebuilding of the public sector needs to be done. It’s beyond shambolic. This is homelessness for god’s sake.

      • They can’t even deal with the normal Council procedures, like remembering to List historic buildings, without making a complete balls-up, so when it comes to something such as homelessness you’ve got no chance. Have just got my new Council Tax bill though, they’re on the ball with collecting that no problem.

  2. In 2009, Fiaz was awarded an OBE for services to race, faith and charity. In 2019 she was awarded Conwoman of the Year.

      • I know first hand because I actually volunteer at a foodbank, and whilst we exist to help people we are all well away that in effect we’re doing a job that shouldn’t exist, if Society/the economy was structured differently there would be no need for foodbanks, and is the danger that institutionalized food poverty becomes acceptable, which of course it isn’t. Tory welfare reforms have made things a lot worse but is not the only problem, it goes much bigger than that, that’s why I hope to read Johnna Montgomerie’s new book on restructuring the economy to eradicate inequality (that I mentioned on a previous thread), and I hope that her ideas might filter through to make a difference.

      • I agree that it is very relevant.

        In the letter linked to the cited article, there is “food banking does benefit the reputations of Big Food and supermarket chains as good corporate citizens while distracting attention away from low wages paid to their workers.”

        That links in with (Prof.) Guy Standing’s observation in book ‘The Corruption of Capitalism: Why rentiers thrive and work doesn’t pay’, that Working Tax Credits (WTC) have been such a boon for cheapskate employers that Tesco had profited more from WTC than it paid in taxes. That is a very troubling observation, in that Universal Credit now incorporates WTC and enshrines the slavery of workers through ‘Claimant Commitment’ that is not balanced by any ’employer commitment’.

        So, homelessness and foodbank usage are on the rise.

        And I refer back to a 2007 article by welfare rights specialist Neil Bateman that I’m glad to say is still available at Community Care magazine website, though that publication now focuses on what Social Work Action Network has referred to as ‘managerialism and privatisation’ rather than the ‘core values’ of social work.

        Anyhow, the article I refer to is from the Blair era of government, The growth in charities providing food to poor families.

        • And I apologise for my not having referred to the fact that the statement “food banking does benefit the reputations of Big Food and supermarket chains as good corporate citizens while distracting attention away from low wages paid to their workers” is mentioned in the article, too, and that Tesco CEO Dave Lewis also used the conference to show what a lovely humanitarian organisation Tesco want to be portrayed as.

    • I read that article yesterday and while I’ve been looking around for opportunities to do some voluntary work to help with the situation so many of us find ourselves in, I didn’t want to do anything that compromised a future where the need for such help was abolished. Though the Trussell Trust agrees that food banks should not become a norm, they do undermine that somewhat by accepting corporate support from some of the worst culprits that cause the problem of poverty in the first place. I was intrigued by the Independent Food Aid Network. and so looked them up, as they seem to be a good fit for the way I think, however, the nearest IFAN foodbank is in Newport, as in Cardiff the Trussell Trust seems to have everything sewn up. I’m going to contact IFAN to see if they’ve been contacted by anyone in Cardiff, as that might lead to the formation of a ‘critical mass’ from where something positive develops.

      Ahh, E.F Schumaker Trev! I have my treasured copy of that on my bookshelf next to my copy of Engel’s ‘The Condtion of the Working Class in England in 1843’ and Galbraith’s ‘The Affluent Society’. I’ll always remember a Leopold Kohr comment about Schumaker about being described as a crank, to the effect that cranks are simple tools that cause revolutions.

      I’m reading Annie Lowrey’s ‘Give People Money’ in which she makes a case for UBI, and outlines the major benefits as well as addressing some of the criticisms. I’ve also found that the Medium website contains some interesting and relevant stuff:

      If we think about it, there are a lot of jobs that shouldn’t exist if the world was a nicer, more humane place. It staggered me the other day to discover that there are 48 separate Third Sector agencies in Wales dealing with just homelessness. This approach seems to be leading to a situation where there is an emphasis on self-perpetuation and growth, when really the public money spent should perhaps be ring fenced and used to fund statutory services for the homeless run by local authorities within a professional framework where abolition of homelessness is a key target. However, this would be to go against the culture somewhat as services are measured on how many they help, rather than how few.

        • I remember you saying that the food bank you volunteer for was independent. I’ve been looking for one here in Cardiff, but as yet not found one, they mostly seem to be Trussell Trust run.

          About the only independent food initiative here seems to be Food Not Bombs, and they do great work in the city centre providing food to all comers.

          • I’ve heard of that, Food Not Bombs, quite a few years back they were putting up a food stall and feeding people free vegetable stew in various towns /cities in America, and getting busted by the authorities for contravening bylaws and doing it without a permit, though it struck me that they were possibly being targeted as subversives by TPTB.

            It wouldn’t be easy but perhaps you could get together with others to start an independent food bank or soup kitchen in your area? Just a thought.

          • A few of us tried to set up a ‘free shop’ a couple of years ago, but most people just found the whole idea beyond their comprehension. I’m guessing that the whole buying of things is so ingrained that the whole notion of anything for free immediately has connotations of being sub par. Nonsense of course, but people are so strange! People are happy enough to accept ‘free’ healthcare, so why not free clothes? Someone has paid for both.

            I would think that the most difficult aspects of setting up an independent food bank would be the issue of premises and also how to stock it. Organisations like the Trussell Trusty have it sewn up, and have contacts with the likes of supermarkets. There’d also be the negativity towards the idea, in that people might reason that there is the Trussell Trust, so why would anyone want to set up an independent one? As you know Trev, trying to explain the subtleties to most people of the Trussell Trust being, ultimately, part of the problem rather than the solution would be futile.

          • Yeah, it wouldn’t be easy at all, but maybe a temporary set-up on certain days in say a village hall, a church, a community centre? you would need to organize a Committee and have access to transport too, a van. and some storage unit. and a Council permit probably, or Registered Charity status. Mine field.

          • All great ideas Trev, though getting the council onside could be difficult, as they seem to be singing from the same song sheet as the DWP if my experience yesterday is anything to go by.

            Went to sort out Council Tax exemption due to having no income and, after he’d launched into some spiel that I don’t really remember about not everyone in Wales is Welsh and so they don’t speak Welsh. All I’d asked him was if he spoke Welsh, and when he said he didn’t I merely asked him if I could speak to someone who spoke Welsh, as I’m entitled to do. Fortunately there was someone who spoke Welsh close at hand, but as they knew diddly squat about Council Tax I had to do with the smart alec, who immediately decided that as I was 62 I was both hard of hearing and slightly senile too. Instead of calmly explaining that to get council tax benefit I’d need to be on Universal Credit he starts extolling the virtues of UC… You can imagine how well that went down with me. Anyway, as I was getting nowhere fast I thanked them both, and informed them that I’d be making a complaint over the lack of Welsh speakers and the fact that it should have been obvious that as I’d asked for a Welsh speaker at reception and that I’d filled in all the forms in Welsh that I’d need to see a Welsh speaker… But no, the attitude of so many is to ignore my rights, make some daft excuse and carry on in English as if that was acceptable. Just hope I haven’t put the kibosh on my getting a job there as I have an interview on Tuesday as a benefit trainee… (Not really sure I want the job, but it seemed like a good idea at the time, still the interview practice will be good.)

            The DWP is actually an oasis of calm efficiency by comparison now it’s (finally) got its act together on providing a Welsh language service.

          • P.S.

            Do you remember Reginald Perrin? He started a business as a kind of protest against Capitalism/Consumerism, a shop selling total crap, think he called it “Grot” or something (?), and it inadvertently became a runaway success!

  3. Government cover-up of Universal Credit hardship now revealed:

    Hard to believe isn’t it, that the caring-sharing DWP would seek to bury such evidence, but when dealing with the evil, lying Tory bastards anything is possible. Further evidence if any were needed that we’re not living in a Democracy as such, more under an elected Dictatorship.

    • But meanwhile… Brexit. Jesus what a clusterfuck. I’ll start posting some more things this week re the way people are being thrown on the heap while all this Tory shit goes on and on and on. Will it ever end

      • Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Either that or there’s been a glitch in the Space – Time Continuum and Groundhog Day has become a reality.

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