Begging a council not to evict you as you’re about to give birth. Behold! – the war against women

Nobody wants to overblow these things, but there are times when council abuse of homeless women really goes next level.

You really do get standout moments.

Here’s the one I want to talk about: An activist friend and I in a whatsapp chat about emergency housing with a pregnant homeless woman while she was lying in a hospital bed waiting to be induced.

That’s how far homelessness goes these days. You can have a situation where a homeless woman lies in a delivery room wondering how she’s going to house the new baby in the weeks after it arrives. Thanks to whatsapp, people can still try to message about sorting things out while they’re starting labour, or counting contractions, or whatever it is. You see this and wonder if the basic human dignities for women are things of the past.

Probably, we never had them.

On with this story:

Before she gave birth, the woman, N, had been told by her council that she and her toddler would be evicted from their emergency hostel place at around the time the baby was due. Her husband – for those who feel that this is their business – was not contributing much. His main job in recent times had been to keep to terms outlined in a non-molestation order. I have a copy of the order here.

After a few taut emails with housing activists, the council agreed to put N’s eviction date back a month or so until her baby was born and then a bit perhaps. Good to find out there was a line, I suppose – that a council wouldn’t throw a woman with a newborn onto the streets. Useful intelligence, but it didn’t change the fact of the eviction, or N’s panic about being homeless and on the street with a toddler and a newborn baby.

Membership of our whatsapp group of 3 (me, the housing activist and N) put that panic into real time. Distanced by digital and disease we may often be, but we also have front-row seats to it all. You can join a homeless woman in her last weeks of pregnancy and then in a delivery room on your phone. She, in her turn, can message about a new application for homeless help from a council even in hospital.

N spent time in hospital before she gave birth. Stress caused by her pending eviction put her there. The week before her baby was born, N’s midwife sent her to A&E because the stress was affecting N’s blood pressure and her baby’s heartrate. It was somewhere around here that someone should have called time.

Here are some of our whatsapp messages:

January 2022:

Shall I start to do new Homelessness application while I’m here so they can process in time during my delivery as they (the council) r not agree to change there decision. Also make sure they will provide me with further temp accommodation.

Friday I have midwife appointment.

 

January 2022

Hi Kate this is for u, as I told u last Friday I went in emergency…

(“Triage today for review of hypertension, maternal and fetal tachycardia,” read N’s hospital notes. “High risk pregnancy.” “Very stressed with limited support at home.”)

 

January 2022

Can u send it please (an email to the council to ask for an urgent zoom meeting to talk about N’s nearing eviction). I’m in hospital. Induction. Soon I will deliver baby.

Tell you what.

———————————————————-

I talk as though whatsapping about council meetings with a homeless woman who is hooked up to heart machines and/or in labour is extreme. It isn’t extreme. What else would anyone expect. This is what it is like. There are people all over who can’t find and/or pay for a home.

The point is that there is no break from it. There’s no night off with a box set, or civilised day of wind-down and rest if, say, you’re about to give birth. There’s no way to keep the world out. People who are homeless don’t get time off from it, even when they’re in hospital with a baby crowning. There’s no such thing as a breather – not in low-income land.

All day every day people are filling in forms to try to prove to councils they have nowhere to go, or they’re searching for landlords who will rent to people who claim benefits (good luck with that), or they’re trying to find places with rents that they can meet with universal credit (good luck with that as well).

And during all of this: people must navigate a delicate relationship with the council that they hope will help them with emergency housing and then, if they’re lucky, something longer-term.

It’s a delicate relationship, because councils are always looking to end it. That’s because stone-broke councils can’t afford to house everyone who turns up homeless at the real or virtual town hall. They just about can’t afford to house anyone who turns up homeless at the real or virtual town hall. The maths is simple from there. Councils cut costs by cutting the number of homeless people they have to help. They do this by tripping people up with the rules. People who don’t know the traps fall into them.

Which was exactly what happened to N. Her “mistake” was to say No to a temporary flat that the council said she should move into from her hostel. Councils can say that they don’t have to help you if you say No to a reasonable home.

N had a good reason to turn this flat down. It seemed a place that her ex could get into. The flat was on the ground floor and the front door wasn’t strong. The building was ringed with thick scrub and grass. N told me that she didn’t feel it was secure. You could say that it looked a good bet for a man who might want to lie in wait for his ex-partner and then shoulder through a flimsy front door to tear a non-molestation order up in her face.

The problem was N didn’t tell the council about that. People fear fallout if they drop others in it. N did tell the council when her relationship broke up. It doesn’t seem that anyone asked for more details. Even if they did, this is hardly a scene where trust abounds and people feel they can open up. Councils have neither the time to draw people out, nor the resources to protect them. They don’t generally ease women into a homelessness office and slowly build up trust over a fortnight’s coffee afternoons.

There’s also the general fact that women with children worry about telling councils that things have become dangerous on the home front. Absolutely everyone you speak to worries that councils will send social services in to take the kids into care if councils think the children are threatened. That can be as much of a concern as the aggressive partner.

Whatever the case, this council stuck to its decision to evict N when the baby was born.

And how. “Stuck to its decision” doesn’t begin to describe this council’s ardour for this eviction decision. They literally couldn’t be prised from it. As time went on, the council’s commitment to eviction seemed to move from the procedural to the sadistic. The council refused to back down even when N began to beg.

Fearing eviction, N said that she’d take the flat after all (and, by definition, the fears that went with it). Too Late, the council said. N asked the council for a formal review of the decision to cut her loose. The council did that and stood firm.

The council did throw N the earlier-mentioned small bone just before she gave birth – they said they would delay the eviction for a bit. They also told her she could take comfort in the fact that eviction takes a while to go through the courts, so she could enjoy a few months in the hostel with her new baby before they were chucked out.

From an officer email:

“I have spoken to the service and it is clear that delaying possession proceedings until after you have given birth provides a much longer period of adjustment than it seems as the Council will need to obtain a possession order from the County Court which is currently taking more than three months.

In the interim the Council will provide appropriate support for you to investigate your housing options…

I hope that the above provides some reassurance…”

So, that was nice.

————

N’s baby was a girl. She had to spent her first week in a hospital on a monitor. Which was somewhere to live, I suppose.

From our whatsapp group:

January 2022

Just delivered my baby… (picture). Have you heard anything from council…

 

February 2022

I’m still in hospital. My baby on monitor (picture)

I asked:

Is she ok?

N said:

I don’t know

33 thoughts on “Begging a council not to evict you as you’re about to give birth. Behold! – the war against women

  1. A fucked-up situation and no mistake. Without being trite the only way it could be any worse would be if the hospital got bombed at the same time.
    I don’t have any babies to worry about, just a few feline dependants, but I’m currently as of yesterday trying to get my Housing Benefit reinstated and get to the bottom of the spurious reason it’s been mysteriously and suddenly suspended. Ah, Council’s.
    Good to see you back Kate, not so good to see that no thing’s changed.

    • Hey Trev, great to see you too :). Yep am back.

      What’s happened with your HB? Keep us appraised if you want to.

      • I got a letter out of the blue on Monday from Council saying that they’ve suspended my HB because they’ve been informed of a change in circumstances, that my flat is now owned by another landlord, so they need details of how to pay the new landlord and a new tenancy agreement. So I rang them (on hold 20 mins.) to tell them that this is all news to me, I haven’t been informed of any such changes and knowing my landlord I suspect it’s a mistake, but the Council wouldn’t have it, they’ve been supplied with a different bank account name so that MUST mean that I’ve got a different landlord. I pointed out to them that the new name they’ve got is one of the partners in the housing company that owns my house and who are my existing landlord. I contacted the landlord and they confirmed that this is the case. They simply had “a problem” with the other account so had given the Council details of a different account to pay rents into. They have already explained this to the Council but said they will contact them again to try and sort it out. Meanwhile my Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction are in limbo. My biggest worry was that this would trigger a move to Universal Credit if the Jobcentre get wind of it and I’ll lose my ongoing JSA claim, but that doesn’t seem to have happened yet as I signed on yesterday but nothing was said. I have emailed the Council to confirm what my landlord told me and am now awaiting a response.

        • Hi Trev and Kate – glad to see there is life again on this blog, and I can only echo what you’ve both said about the ongoing and worsening situation we see expanding before us.

          Trev, you have my sympathies regarding your dealings with the council. I hope the department dealing with Housing Benefit with your council is better than the one here. When I worked for the local council in a division of the housing department dealing with homelessness we used to process HB forms for people staying in the hostels and forward them through the internal mail and STILL the HB department would regularly lose them. Personally I think it’s partly down to local authorities absolute obsession with paper-based systems, where it’s so easy for a piece of paper to be mis-filed, mixed up with other papers, or just lost under a pile of other paper. I’ve known papers to go missing several times for the same internal claim!

          Good luck with it Trev, I hope it’s resolved soon, and that the JCP don’t get wind of it and decide it’s grounds to put you on UC – though to be fair, I’ve had no issues whatsoever with it, besides sometimes finding myself feeling that I lack in imaginations sometimes when it comes to the ridiculous jobsearch requirements 🙂

  2. What a Fucked Up state we are surviving in; the whole housing crisis is beyond any words I have.

    Great to know you’re still campaigning Kate

    • Hey Jayne! Great to see you again 🙂

      The cost of living crisis – yes. People can’t even find shitehole places now. LHA gets nowhere near a rent and landlords are raising rents like there’s a contest on. So they can get stuffed.

  3. What I don’t understand is the government welcoming all these extra people into the country when we are seriously struggling to help them that are born in the UK.
    My friend’s just lost their private rented home and housing refused to act until day they had to leave. Now him and his family including 5 children all under 6 years old are sleeping on relatives floors. He’s tried to get private rents also but because he gets help they won’t accept him. What I don’t understand there is a house estate that’s just been built and it’s full of people from Eastern Europe plus Africa. What I don’t understand is how these people can rent these homes on Housing benefit when the rents are over £870 per month. Most uk citizens have a benefit cap there isn’t one uk family renting on there. I don’t understand why people coming to this country get different treatment to immigrants it doesn’t make any sense. Why we are not putting our families first. I understand people from Ukraine are in a desperate situation but again how many Ukrainians will actually want to come here unless they have family. We really need to sort our own housing crisis out before we start offering homes to others, we simply don’t have enough homes that are affordable . This is our government’s fault they’ve not invested in social housing and have knocked down thousands of homes , then they sell the land on and very few homes are built for affordable rents. Most are built for the private rent market. Council’s have raked in the cash selling the land on. While thousands of lost council houses are lost and gone forever.

    • I’m of the view that oligarch homes and the thousands of places that are not occupied should be used for housing for all.

      Maybe throw open Buck house as well

    • We’re not struggling to help “those born in the UK” out of any good reason, merely as a result of quite deliberate policies that reward those who own Capital instead of rewarding those who work, and policies that cold-heartedly leave those who don’t work to their own devices or to die because about the only safety net that exists anymore is the one provided by community-run foodbanks, the Social Security system having been deliberately destroyed by Tories/Neoliberals. There’s plenty of money, just that the Rich have got it all and are pretty determined to hang on to it, so instead of investing in infrastructure they hoard it in offshore tax havens, whilst the Russian Oligarchs buy up London to hide their dirty money.

      • Martin Lewis from Money Saving Expert has warned the Tories that their policies will lead to civil strife. I think he’s right.

  4. You know, i’ve never had it so good. I have to be bloody old and arthriticky to get there but I really have never had it so good. If it were not for a deep rooted sense of ballistic anger at this sickening ‘greed is good’ system that has rewarded the rich and stripped those who struggle to the damn bones; -I would turn away from this. I even note to self that I want to do that; I don’t want to hear about this. I’ve paid my dues. I’ve had my struggles. I earned it.

    But I can’t. I loathe and detest that I can do nothing to give these scum the caning they richly deserve. I just have to watch an ever increasing divide and wonder how far this callous brutality can go. It IS fed by a society today that was encouraged by Thatcher to think only of themselves. ‘The rich’ will do as they always have. It is society in general that do not give a flying fuck as long as they are OK. It is the majority, not that rich minority, that care little for the fallout of revering ‘multi million dollar homes/boats/holidays’, but could not care less about N -and for people like you Trev (how you cope is beyond comprehension).

    Even in my dotage I fantasise about a ‘Purge day’ becoming legal. 24 hours would not be long enough. Reasonable financial security has not stopped the rage. My only two operating system emotions on a daily basis are anger and sadness. Every bloody day.
    Councils wield more power than national government. I don’t give one damn for their lack of funds. They have wasted millions over the years on overstaffing and consultants paid generously to tell them how to do the work that taxpayers already pay them to do. They are full of little tin Gods who as individuals have no power to dominate and bully………….but get them together in a Council…..

    I wrote all that, and can do bugger all to help N, other than hear her story. One of so many. ‘Life and death in the warehouse’ is currently being repeated on BBC3. It shows a working slave slowly aborting her baby because she was expected to ‘pick’ items (for us!) at an inhuman rate.
    We can only rely on filmakers like Ken Loach to highlight this modern day slavery (I believe his daughter was involved in that doc/drama).

    You’ve ruined my day Kate. I wanted to relax today. I wanted to ‘do lunch’ later.

    Thank God you did. All the very best Trev.

    • Thanks Linda, I just about cope and manage to get by somehow, there are people worse off than me though, at least I don’t have kids/babies to worry about. If I can live long enough to get my State Pension I’ve cracked it!

    • I mean it’s just brilliant, isn’t it.

      On a positive note, looks like Sunak will cut petrol duty, so at least the Daimler won’t run dry. We don’t want to be the kind of society where people have to walk to the golf course.

      • I have to walk everywhere and I’m bloody sick of it, can’t afford bus fares and God knows when you get a free bus pass in England these days, in Wales it’s from age 60 but not here. As regards the increased poverty no doubt the Tories will blame Brexit, Covid, Putin, anything but their own rotten policies.

        • I have one of those bus passes that you get at 60 in Wales, but I find myself walking more and more.

          Despite there being frequent buses on the routes I use, most of the buses and full with ‘Sorry, Bus Full’ on the front, or ‘Not in Service, Returning to Depot’. At least their now mostly electric buses, so I suppose that’s something.

          On a slightly different tack, as well as banning the smacking of children this week, the Welsh Government have committed to providing free school meals to every primary school child regardless of family income, and Plaid Cymru has now launched a campaign to extend free meals to all secondary school students as well.

          I can see that Scotland where their own, better alternative to PIP is coming on stream, might want to adopt the free school meals for all, and maybe Northern Ireland too, and hopefully England – be great if Greater Manchester and the London Assembly adopted it as a policy too.

          In Wales there are the usual naysayers moaning about the cost and who’s going to pay for it, but it’s what Finland has been doing since 1947 when it was a far from prosperous country.

          It’s a small start, but an important step in the right direction.

      • As someone on the internet said about Sunak’s reduction of fuel duty, ‘That takes it back to the price of a litre last week’. Whilst denying the Treasury billions that could have been spent on things we need – like decent support for the poor in society.

  5. Back online again.
    One thing comes across strongly in this place which continues to expose the situation imposed on those who can least afford it, and who least deserve it; by the fetid sewer that is C-conservative policy/philosophy. It’s the sense of humour, that not all can feel, granted, but it seems to be the only coping-and affordable mechanism to cope with the brutality of those who are in control.
    I wrote rather over emotionally before, but for some bloody rather naive reason, I thought things might have got a little better as we come out of (?) this global blight.
    Stupid really.

    Watching the smirking performance of ALL in that House, as Sunak gave his oil slick performance, sickened me. I don’t bother with Question Time because it allows political panel members copious time to look as if they care, and those who cope with their policies just seconds to put a question or pov. BUT: I became interested this week in watching the performance of–whoever,–the Conservative MP, sliding smoothly through his spiel, and Nandy doing much the same, in an attempt to show ‘effective opposition’. It was the performance that got to me.
    I don’t believe either of them gave a shit. I changed channels when I took an Omaprazole; -they literally turned my stomach.

    Years ago, a Uni science lab undertook an experiment with rats. Remember that? A normally gregarious fellow, these were put under extreme stress, resulting in them turning on one another. I hope Lewis is right. I hope eventually people will hit the streets in protest; I’ll be there. But people HAVE to act together. We’ve learned well the SEP Principle: Someone Elses Problem. Nothing will change if that continues; it will only get worse.

    How is N? Any updates?

    • Hello again! Excellent post.

      An update on N – will post another soon, but the council seems to be moving on the new homelessness application that was made, by which I mean they’ve produced a new useless piece of paper in the form of a new personal housing plan. A PHP can be worth five-eighths of eff-all as we know too well – “help” from a council in a PHP can basically amount to giving someone a list of private landlords to ring for all the world as that’ll help someone find a decent and affordable place at a time of skyrocketing private rents and zero places available at LHA rates anywhere. It usually comes down to whether or not a council accepts a duty. We will see.

      Nobody official has mentioned eviction in the last couple of weeks. I will certainly mention it here if they do.

      If it is any help – I haven’t watched the “news” for years. It’s pollution. You’d feel cleaner showering under an outfall.

      • I only come online every few days, because this thing is an addiction for me and I will stay on it for around 8-10 hours at a time-without moving from it…….I have a cast iron cavernous bladder!

        It is actually hard to take on board what came into being today. I worked out that my power cost is to rise about £15-18 PER WEEK! I can do it, though I’ll concede to an uneasiness now. But what about others? What about N and all the N’s created by these scum? What about you Trev? What will happen to those already struggling?
        This power gouge cannot be afforded. Someone mentioned this morning that the French Government will not allow a rise above 4%. Why in the hell can’t Party Central do something similar? Daft question really.
        It has potential to be catastrophic. I suspect many will switch off ALL power. What if people resort to camp stove cooking indoors? How many more renters will be out on the street? How many will not be able to pay mortgages?
        This is a crisis. That congenital idiot and his hencemen have deflected attention by getting us as a populace to show solidarity support for the Ukraine invasion, (which also deflects attention from the mess left by GB/US in Afghanistan, part of my cultural roots). Being coloured/white I will never ever be critical of those who are forced to flee their countries; including Ukrainians; but I cannot ignore the ever increasing neglect of our own poor.
        This extraordinarily exorbitant power rise is the tipping point. It people do not get together and stand up to this, we are bloody well doomed as a society.

        • You’re right Linda, a hell of a lot of people are going to suffer fuel/or food poverty. Personally, although I’m always skint, I’m in a good/unique position regarding energy. I don’t have any gas anymore as it was disconnected a few years ago due to a leak. I only have electricity in my flat and no expensive central heating to pay for, in fact not much heating at all. The electricity supply is not in my name, it’s in the landlord’s name and I pay via an old coin meter that takes the old pound coins and hasn’t been recalibrated in donkey’s years, in fact it would be illegal to recalibrate and refit the meter. I’ve looked it up, the meter is still legal so long as it is left in place but cannot legally be reinstalled if removed for repair or recalibration or whatever reason. So my electricity is fairly cheap compared to what I was paying in the past when in HA property fitted with suppliers’ prepayment meters or on npower direct debit in my name. The landlord effectively uses the old pound coins has tokens, and after the N enter has been emptied I pay legal currency to buy back the old pound coins to reuse in the meter over again. It works out very cheap for me and the landlord is making so much money in other ways (rents, minimum repairs/maintenance, property appreciation, and Tax fiddling) that they don’t even notice the big discrepancies in power bills. They have same old pound coins in many of their flats from what I’ve heard.

        • Agreed. The energy cost increases are impossible for people – nobody has the extra 100s that they’re now expected to find.

          Appreciate your posts and the issues that people raise. I know things are pretty upsetting, but it is great hearing from everyone and reading what everyone has to say.

  6. So glad there is some good news for you Trev. You have such a great attitude, truly you do, but of course it doesn’t put food in the belly.

    Cheers Kate. I’m 77 in a couple of days – (no happy birthdays please; who in their right mind celebrates getting old!), – and my anger gets worse every day, I suppose this is what is meant by ”grumpy old”. It is the frustration of watching all of this develop over many years, and listen to it being justified, and being powerless to do anything about the buggers responsible. I suspect my arteries can snap like twigs!

    Catch yer’ Logging off.

    • “who in their right mind celebrates getting old”

      I’m counting down the days to age 67 when I can get my State Pension! Quite a few years to go yet but at the end of every week/month/year I console myself with the thought that’s another week/month/year closer to Retirement and the end of my interaction with the Jobcentre. Roll on.

      • I only hope they don’t shift the goalposts again. It seems calculated and deliberate to keep upping the qualifying age to avoid paying the Age Pension. As handy as their policy of (at that time), sending covid positive patients to nursing homes in order to lesson the AP they were already paying out…
        A benign genocide.

        All the more repugnant when ‘Richy’ Sunak’s family situation came to light. He now refers himself to the Justification Committee in order to sanitise it.

        Until we get some bottle and unifyingly kick up; this situation will get worse.

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