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Pay Back Time?

September 12, 2012

Today I received the shattering news that the housing benefit we have relied on for the last three years to help towards the rent has been stopped by Hillingdon. Ironically, I was notified at a meeting I attended after applying for a discretionary housing payment as I have been really struggling to pay the rent since the rent cap was introduced. The guy admitted that the regulations haven’t changed and our circumstances haven’t changed but Hillingdon have decided to reinterpret the regulations. They now see our old marital home differently than they have for the past three years. Up until now, they have disregarded the property as not being available to me, as Steven’s mother still lives there and is unwilling to sell, and that it is in Steven’s best interests to be living away from there. Today, they say that they have to take half the value of the house into account as being available to me and that disqualifies me from any benefit.

So, from October 16th, Steven and I will be homeless. Or there’s a possibility that he won’t be but we won’t be able to live together. Steven could be offered a place under the independent living scheme with 24 hour live in support, possibly even the flat we’re currently living in, if I can get the landlord to agree to change the tenancy. But being family, I cannot be that live in support as my presence wouldn’t make it “independent”. As there is nowhere locally that I could afford to rent on my income, that seems to be the only option open to us, even though it is hardly in Steven’s best interests and goes against all the court recommendations. Obviously, the council don’t have any duty to rehouse me as a single man, and if I remain as the main applicant, Steven is only treated as a non dependent and his specific needs become irrelevant.

My friend and our solicitor reckons this is Hillingdon’s revenge. I don’t want to appear too paranoid but it is odd that after three years, their decision about the HB is suddenly completely reversed. In applying for the discretionary payment, I had to lay myself totally bare, so they would be fully aware that it is impossible for Steven and I to live together, anywhere in the borough, without the assistance of the benefit. I wouldn’t be able to work more hours to try to make up the shortfall because I don’t have the support to cover. In fact, after yesterday’s blog about the FACE assessment and the probable outcome of that, I would probably have to reduce my working hours. And the damages that Hillingdon were ordered by the court to pay Steven can be clawed back by Hillingdon from Steven if he becomes the tenant to cover his rent because he will fall into the same category as me as having “funds available”. It feels like 2010 all over again because whatever best interests argument I put, and heaven knows, I’ve got all those expert witness reports that state categorically that Steven should be in his own home with me, Hillingdon can just shrug their shoulders and fell back “on the regulations”.

Linda Saunders, our old friend from 2010, is not only director of adult social care but of housing as well, so I’ve considered appealing to her, whilst remembering that she authorised the “sorry” press release that sought to destroy Steven.

Under housing law, a council has no obligation to house someone if they deem you have made yourself “=intentionally homeless”; I don;t know that there is anything in law to cover the situation where the council intentionally makes you homeless. It feels like I’m in an old western movie and am being driven out-of-town!

I’m tired, very tired but it feels like a race against the clock to get something sorted for Steven before the 16th October. And then his life will really be in the lap of the gods, or in the lap of the Hillingdon gods. A friend just text me to say: “you’ve got to get away from this persecution”. I know it’s a strong word but that is exactly what this last two days feels like.

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From → Social Care

17 Comments
  1. wally kennedy permalink

    Mark, I an sorry to hear … but it would appear to be par for the course for these vindictive people. I would suggest that you appeal and that you get the Law Centre to pursue the matter … 0208-561-9400. The government have changed the legislation and it is having a devastating impact. Capping HB and not Rents is particularly cruel.

  2. Colin Wilson permalink

    Perhaps it’s time to contact the press, to remind the council of the history of your circumstances, and see if they’ll back down.

    The only other way I can see this going forward would be for a court to decide whether your (ex?) wife can be forced to sell the property (or buy you out) to settle the matter.

    Ask them where you want him delivering to, once you become homeless as a result of their ruling ?

    You could also put up a tent outside the town hall / housing office, making the point that they are intentionally making you and your disabled son homeless, when their interpretation of things is out of your control.

  3. Sarah permalink

    Isn’t it the wife not selling the house that is causing this problem?

  4. anonymouse permalink

    Could he move into an independent property and use his personal budget to employ you as a 24-hour live-in carer/personal assistant? There is no absolute bar in the legislation to prevent people employing family members as carers (and in this case you have the Court of Protection declaration and expert reports to support it). The personal budget could be managed by a third party to avoid any conflict of interest.

  5. Keith Cooper permalink

    Mark,

    I’m a journalist who has done some research into discretionary housing payments for the magazine Inside Housing. Figures show Hillingdon Council has been stockpiling discretionary housing payments. They underspent 45 per cent of their government allocation in 2011/12, according to my analysis.

    I’ve written a detailed piece about the problems with discretionary housing payments, which you can find here:

    http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/ihstory.aspx?storycode=6523175

    You may have to register with the website to read the article, but it is free.

    Feel free to contact me.

    Regards,
    Keith Cooper

  6. Alison permalink

    Hi Mark, I am really sorry to hear that Hillingdon have taken this approach. I know of a number of local authorities who have decided to take this approach to a jointly owned property which was previously disregarded or given a nil value because the half share had no market value (because the other owner could not sell and no one would want to byuy a half interest). May be worth challenging their decision??

  7. Mark, I am (allegedly) a supported housing expert who is known for pulling no punches. I’ve quickly (as im on my way out) read some of your other blogs and a few news reports on the court case. Yes LB Hillingdon are trying to shaft you. Some of the comments youve made about HB need much more detail but I will gladly help in any way I can on technical aspects of HB (the DHP angle is perhaps not the best one to focus on) and homelessness and also in other ways. Drop me an email to joe@hsmonline.co.uk and I will contact you tomorrow as there are one of two ways to resolve these matters that spring to mind

  8. samedifference1 permalink

    Hello Mark,

    I’m a blogger on disability issues who has closely followed your case since 2010. I fully supported your fight to care for Steven at home. I have blogged on this latest shocking decision by Hillingdon council- the post will go live at 9am on my site, Same Difference.

    You both still have my full support in your clear wish to live together in your own home. If you decide to set up a campaign against this decision, please do keep me posted as I would love to help in any way I can.

    Best wishes
    Sarah Ismail (@samedifference1)

  9. Oh my goodness. I’m sorry to hear what’s happening. You don’t need this added pressure. I’ve been homeless before and am really quite poorly. My local council took over 18 months to decide I needed help, meanwhile I was in dire straits. Just wish MP’s could see this. I’m under 35, housing benefit being slashed from (rent is £150/week) £143/week to £70/week. Unfit to work and struggling as it is. I am disgusted for you. Wish I could help, I really do xxxxx

  10. So glad you appear to be getting much needed support from experts in the field. If there’s anything a plain old Twitter follower can do, would be delighted to join in! Wishing you both all the very best.

  11. Pearl Wheeler permalink

    In the case of an elderly couple, if one of them needs residential care, the council cannot force the sale of their house to fund that care whilst the house remains the home of the other. The healthy co-tenant is not expected to bear the loss of that home. Not sure if that is relevant here?

  12. James Ware permalink

    The council is probably stockpiling discretionary housing benefit to allow for top up payments and care grants when Council tax benefit gets further capped as part of partial reform into a locally administered ‘total household income tax’. This will ‘shaft’ a lot of their supporters living retired with grandkids in the borough (parents working for the UK state and military) and when this change gets made, thye have to examine the benfit decisions of everyone (staring at the moment).

    Be grateful that you have the independant reports that show you are a carer and he is disabled so that you remain entitled to housing provision. To go after the previous family home when the mother might want to start a family again is one of the most, and io use the word advisedly, ‘evil’ things I can think of.

    The agenda is shifting towards social housing and more care home provision for those who are impaired, rather than family care in some areas and as elderly care home provision changes as numbers in them alter (increase with world war 2 and baby bommer gerations on final salary pensions, plus rental income from their family homes to help their grandkids on top of state benefits)

    as such if theres anything I can do to help just ask

    people to write to rpuddifoot@hillingdon.gov.uk
    pcurling@hillingdon.gov.uk
    jrandall@parliament.uk
    nhurd@parliament.uk
    jmcdonnell@parliament.uk
    mayor@london.gov.uk

    there is also the Cabinet Office website for contacting the health minister and prime minister and deputy primeministers office

    emiliband@parliament.uk as office for leader of the opposition

    HAVS can help with care charities,

    Hillingdon Carers are in Uxbridge near Tescos, as is Age UK.

    Disablement assn of Hillingdon are based in HIllingdon near the Hospital on the Hillingdon Manor school original site (the one funded by Anna Kennedy, mates with Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York. Childrens charities are helped by the Princess Royal. You could also write to teh Duchess of Cambridge at St James Palace or Clarence House.

    Legal action is assisted through legal aid and inns of court as I understand it.

  13. James Ware permalink

    DASH have relocated to Wood End primary near St Jeromes parish centre, West Hayes (U4 bus)

  14. James Ware permalink

    I’ve emailed Ed MIliband to ask a question at PMQs this Wednesday and cc’d the leader of Hillingdon Labour (the only and second party in the council chamber elected at HIllingdon at present). If he does I’m joining them to get more benefit law advice from my last uni and its welfare support centre affiliated Mary Ward Legal Centre as it has in the past had legal access to Court Lawyers (solicitor Advocates and legal Barristers).

    THere is also the lawyer list that the central citizens advice holds at the civic centre. The leader of Hillingodon Lib Dems and the Conservative councillors of Manor and northwood Hills wards include accountants who could advise the best strategy for keeping your compensation, as well as some law firms that are advised by injury law websites. Don’t blow it on a comode or adapted equiipment until you’re sure that you keep teh property other wise the council just takes the property you’re in and says thanks. Please resolve the situation at benefit tribunal service and equivilant first to give you maximum support for the upcoming legal battle if necessary.

    James Ware

  15. Helena Klinger permalink

    I am totally devastated by this latest development. What kind of people sit in Council Offices plotting
    to destroy your family?

    • James ware permalink

      Helenathe kind that set budgets according to to targets. IN my own case as a student based locally since primary school and based on my then parental income i could conceiveably qualify for the top up houisng beenfit payment of £5 a week on my 1 bedroom flat. However I don’t get it even though I’m on disability benefits as I’m single disabled (mental health) of working age. ASs such it would be very difficult for me ever to support a family. As such in the UK we are all affected by the age of austerity. James Ware

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