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Eviction Notice

November 13, 2012

It’s been an awful day and I do feel like I’m reaching the end of my fighting capacity (There’s a thought – perhaps if you’re engaged in dealings with your local authority, you should have a fighting capacity assessment!). This morning I received the shocking news about my Housing Benefit. This afternoon, I passed out – I’m sure it was the stress of the latest bombshell, but it was scary nonetheless.

Today I was called to meet the people from the housing department about my housing benefit claim. To recap, for people who haven’t read the earlier blogs on the subject, I have been getting Housing benefit continuously since we moved to this flat in 2009. In July, I asked for my claim to be reassessed as my income had gone down a fair bit since I went out on my own in my own practice. I went along for a meeting, which I thought was to be about the reassessment, only to be told that they had looked at my claim again and that I was no longer entitled to HB. The reason they gave was that I jointly own the home that Steven’s unwell mother lives in and their position is that I have access to the funds of that property. I don’t – his mother is very ill and cannot sell the property. That has always been the case since 2009 and I checked out that very point before we took up this tenancy. I was informed at the first meeting that they were stopping the Housing Benefit with immediate effect. The following day I got in touch with all the press contacts I made during the court case in 2011 and The Times and the local paper ran the story. I was also invited onto Radio London and was interviewed by Paul Ross. Astonishingly, mid interview, Linda Saunders, the director of Housing came on air and said that she had personally intervened and was reinstating the benefit whilst further discussions took place. That was two months ago and the benefit has remained paid since. I went to one meeting, the week after the radio interview, and was given 2 options to think about. I had already taken legal advice, which was that we had a very good case, so not to consider the other options and appeal the decision to stop the HB. I submitted the appeal on 26th September. I have heard nothing until today.

It felt like Groundhog Day. It came out in court that all the discussions between the LA and me over Steven’s care were “window dressing”, whilst they sought legal advice and got their own legal case in order (as we know, that failed dismally). The same thing happened today. The housing officer admitted that the delay of two months has been whilst they sought legal advice. Not as Linda Saunders promised, to have further discussions. They were confident that their decision is legally sound and so are stopping the housing benefit again from 19th November. I said that I have no confidence in their ability to get a legal matter correct after 2010 and wanted to pursue the appeal. Amazingly, they said that my appeal is only valid from today as their formal decision was notified to me today. And the formal decision only states that I am not entitled as “you have capital in excess of £16000”. If I want a fuller explanation, I have to request it and that slows down the process even more. That means I will have to go through the charade of an internal appeal (which of course will get nowhere) and then hopefully, to the social security commission. It will take a long time, and in the meantime, I don’t have the money to pay the full rent. So, even if the appeal is successful, by then it will be too late – we will already be evicted.

That led us to the other options. The council have no duty to rehouse me as a single man; but they do have a duty towards Steven. However, they won’t do anything until we have been evicted from our flat. So, next rent day, I will just have to pay what I can afford and let the landlady serve an eviction notice. Leaving aside, the deep shame of that as I’ve had a very good relationship with my landlady and have never once missed a payment of rent, they cannot start a rehousing of Steven until eviction is served.

The new property, probably a council flat, will have to be in Steven’s name. That throws up two problems. Firstly, I would have to act on his behalf as he lacks capacity to manage a tenancy and we are still waiting for the court of protection date for my welfare deputyship application. I checked with the lawyer this morning to make sure that the application we have submitted will cover me having to oversee the tenancy on his behalf. The second kick in the balls is that Steven wouldn’t qualify for housing benefit either because of his compensation. I said that we haven’t received it yet and that the court will hold on to it until I become the welfare deputy, but their opinion is that because they have released the funds, it is available to Steven. So, despite the assurances from Linda Saunders and regardless of whether it was their intention, they will indirectly get the money back that the court ordered them to pay as compensation for their illegal act. The rent will probably be significantly cheaper than the private rent I pay at the moment, but the outcome is still the same; whether Steven or I are the tenant, neither of us will get any help towards the rent. The place will have to be furnished, so another chunk of his compensation will have to go on that. The poor sod is likely to have very little left of his damages by this time next year. I’ve had to completely revise my ideas that the damages would pay for him to have some good holidays over the next few years.

Of course, Steven’s best interests didn’t enter into the conversation once; neither did the recommendations of the court experts.

So, add today’s news with the situation from yesterday’s blog about the long-term sickness of the direct payment worker and how do I fund his sick pay and a replacement worker. Throw into the pot, the fact that we are still waiting for the damages payout 18 months after the court case and it all feels very bleak right now.

No final joke today – I think the joke is on me.

 

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From → Social Care

2 Comments
  1. Suzanne Hayes permalink

    Dear Mark and Steven
    i am totally appalled by what a government department which is supposed to help you is doing. most of their mission statement say they have to act in an open and transparent way. oh no this does not apply to them. They walk in say and see what they want to and then start wrecking your life. We have had direct payments withdrawn from john by wiltshire council and their solicitor is very aggressive towards us because they are after compensation that john received because a health board totally messed his life at birth. he is now 29 and severely disabled. You are a total inspiration to all carers you have been ground down time and time again and yet you get up and get on with the caring of your son. I know my words are just words but i hope they help you to get back up again. bought a key ring this week that says “don’t let the bastards grind you down).
    Suzanne

  2. Hi, just a couple of things for now, will try and get back to you with more in next few days. I used to be a welfare rights adviser so have an understanding of the way these things work altho my knowledge is out of date.

    Firstly, don’t worry too much about the fact that they have made this new decision. Just submit effectively the same appeal as you sent in before but with new dates of decisions etc on. It does feel like gamesmanship on their part but if you get too tied up in arguing that simple point, you won’t have enough energy to take on the main issues. As their decision is effectively backdated, your appeal against that decision will be backdated (or rather, an appeal covers the same time frame as they claim their decision does) so you haven’t lost anything from this on its own, other than a few more grains of your sanity maybe.

    Second, with housing benefit you do not need to request an internal appeal with the council, you can make your appeal straight to the Lower Tribunal which is part of the Tribunals Servoce and is independent. I would strongly recommend that you see a local advice centre/law centre/CAB about this to make sure you get the correct forms and don’t get lost in some standard council ‘complaints’ procedure. I’m sure Hillingdon has a CAB (think I applied for a job there once, didn’t get it).

    From what I remember on situations like this I think your appeal argument is sound i.e. there is not a realistic possibility of you realising your capital from the jointly owned property so it should not be included. Have to say that sort of thing gets quite technical so I’d need to look into it in more detail. It is obviously better if you have somebody nearer home to do that for you mind.

    I’ll look back here in the next day or two and if I’ve got anything else to add I will do.

    Good luck and take care.

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