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The Saturday Riddle (An Occassional Feature)

September 7, 2013

“I regret to conclude that the appeal must be dismissed. Mr Neary is not entitled to housing benefit from 10th September 2012. I appreciate and applaud the fact that Mr Neary has sought at all times only to act in the best interests of his son. It is a shame that a lack of entitlement to this benefit is the consequence.”

That is the final paragraph of the Tribunal judgement on my appeal against Hillingdon’s decision to stop my Housing benefit. In a way, it encapsulates much of what I write about and has led to the birth of a new feature of this blog, the Saturday Riddle.

The Riddle follows the traditional riddle approach, so work with it along the lines of old skool riddles like: “If you put two hippos, two frogs and two former members of Bananarama in a taxi from Heathrow terminal 5 to Kings Cross St Pancras, how many maltesters will be consumed by the time the travelling party reaches Turnham Green”. That sort of thing.

This Saturday’s Riddle comes straight from the Tribunal judgement:

“It is a matter of fact that, although they live apart, Mr and Mrs Neary are not divorced. Mr Neary was unwilling to accept that he was estranged from his wife, although he acknowledged that he was, at best, in an unconventional marital relationship. The debate is whether Mr Neary is estranged from Mrs Neary. I find that in the circumstances as I have determined them to be, the parties are estranged. A mutual interest in the welfare of the child of the family may give rise to common ground but it does not prevent or cure or deny estrangement. I have also traced the definitions of ‘partner’, ‘couple’, ‘relative’ and ‘family’. Mrs Neary was not a partner within the definition, nor a member of a couple. I further find that Mrs Neary does not come within the definition of relative. It seems to me that Mrs Neary could be a relative of Mr Neary if she was part of a couple (but, as I find, she is not) but that Steven is not a member of the family because he does not occupy the property as his home”.

Here’s your challenge:

* Who is Mr Neary?
* Who is Mrs Neary?
* Who is Steven Neary?
* What, if any, is their relationship to each other?
* Who is Shaking Stevens and does he enter into this conundrum?

The first prize will be a day accessing the community at the Hillingdon Hub/sewerage works.

Entries will close by 6pm on Monday 9th September 2048.

Good luck and Good riddling.

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From → Social Care

14 Comments
  1. Annie permalink

    Mark, were you asked by the judge whether, had social services not given you the ultimatum regarding choosing between living with your wife or with Steven, you would still be living with your wife? And did he enquire into your relationship with your wife before the ultimatum? You can also ask for a Record of Proceedings, the judge’s notes made during the Tribunal, which you might find useful if you are considering an appeal to the Upper Tribunal, the Record of Proceedings has to be available for request for six months after the Tribunal has taken place.

    • Annie – No, the judge didn’t ask the first question. I tried to bring it up anyway but Hillingdon’s barrister stopped me. We did talk about our relationship before the ultimatum and as I’d written in my submission, the nature of our relationship is pretty much the same now as it has always been. When the judge asked me about our relationship in the present, I broke down. Even though I was able to describe what the tears were about, in the judgement, the judge interpreted the tears as an indication of my sadness that the marriage is over.

  2. Annie permalink

    Mark, I just wanted you to know that I’ve read your reply and I’ll come back to you on it, probably tomorrow or, if not, Monday if that’s OK? I’m tired, need to eat and need to think about it. Annie

  3. Annie permalink

    Sorry, Mark, more questions before I come back to you:

    Did you include the circumstances which led to you and Steven moving out of the marital home and therefore the separation from your wife in your submission?

    If you did include them in your submission, did the Tribunal judge question you further about them?

    If you did include them in your submission and the judge did NOT question you about them, did you have an opportunity to explain the circumstances more fully?
    If not why not?

    If you did NOT include the circumstances which led to you moving out of the marital home in your submission, did the tribunal judge question you about the reason why you moved out/the reason why you and your wife are no longer living together?

    If you did NOT include the circumstances which led to you moving out of the marital home in your submission and the judge did NOT question you about why you left, were you given an opportunity to explain the reason?
    If not why not?

    In both the above cases, i.e. whether the circumstances which caused you to leave the marital home were or were not included in the submission, do you believe that you were given the opportunity/allowed to explain as fully as you felt was necessary in order to properly/fully establish the facts of your case against the LA’s decision that you were not entitled to HB?
    If not why not?
    If not, which facts which you believe are relevant to your appeal were you not able to establish?

    Finally, did you appeal soley against the LA’s decision that you and your wife, for the purposes of determining entitlement to HB, were estranged or did you also appeal against the LA’s valuation of the former marital home?

    Annie

    • Annie – my submission included the ultimatum given by Hillingdon which forced the move. I did bring it up in the hearing but the judgement makes no reference to the reason for the move – it just states that Steven and I left the marital home because of my wife’s illness. I didnt appeal against the valuation of the property. My appeal challenged Hillingdon’s decision on the three key points: is my waife my partner; is my wife a relative; is Steven a member of my family. The hearing and the judgement was almost solely focused on the 1st point. The judgement is six pages long and the second and third issues are addressed perfunctorily toegtehr in the penultimate paragraph – the rest of the judgement is all about the issue of “estrangement”

  4. angela permalink

    I am so very sorry/

  5. Emily permalink

    I’m sorry but what language are they speaking???

    Curiouser and curiouser said Alice.

    Hang in there. x

  6. My father spent 17 years in the army and he could be at the other side of the world and gone for 18 months at a time. My parents were never considered to be estranged and yet the only form of communication would be a letter every so many weeks. The army supplied married quarters regardless. What I am trying to say is that people can remain connected, in a relationship, a family, whatever, over vast distances of space and time. Surely it is for the two people involved to decide whether or not they are estranged especially when circumstances have forced them to live apart.

  7. Sally permalink

    I am very sorry.
    Seems the judgement focuses on their strongest point-how to define the relationship with your wife. Your strongest point-is Stephen a member of your family-was given far less attention.The unfairness is that the authorities are not wanting to set a precedent, and thus allow further cases.
    I hope you are able to challenge this which will take so much effort I know and is easy for me to write. Its not a question of semantics, surely . In other ways it is assumed by the authorities that Stephen is indeed your family member.

  8. Annie permalink

    I have thought long and hard, Mark, I have searched every relevant source I know and some more, I have checked the guidance, I have searched welfare rights advisers sites, I have read case law, tribunal procedures, even a SI, and whilst I am more convinced than ever that the decision was wrong, that your wife remains your partner, you are a couple who have been separated not through choice but by force of circumstances and that for the purposes of assessing entitlement to means-tested benefits your share in the property should be ignored, and that the tribunal was not correctly conducted I have not found a solution.

    So where does this leave you? You could seek legal advice on whether you have grounds to appeal on a point of law to a higher court, there are national pro bono organisations who have expertise in social security law. Or you could, I suppose, again claim HB, have your claim turned down on the same grounds and appeal the valuation of the property although I assume that there was a reason why you didn’t appeal the valuation this time. Valuations of the a joint share in a property do not always take into consideration all the factors which would effect the value of the claimant’s share if he/she were to put it on the market. Factors to consider in your circumstances could include your wife’s health, the impact on her health were she forced to move and whether she would be willing to sell her share in the property; if she was not willing to move, the value of your share with your wife still living in the property and also whether a court is likely to be willing to force your wife to sell and vacate the property. I think that it would be worth you seeking further legal advice regarding both the Housing Benefit issue and the wider housing situation if you have not already done so.

    In terms of housing itself, I am concerned about the idea of Steven having the tenancy of a property in his name with the LA signing the tenancy agreement on his behalf, this gives the LA total control of where Steven, and therefore you, live. I would feel the same way if it was not Hillingdon. For what it is worth, I do not believe that it provides the best solution or is in Steven’s or your best interests. Based on what you have said, and I do not know all the details, I personally would be pushing for a joint tenancy with Steven, it would leave both of you liable for 50% of the rent rather than one of you being liable for the full rent and you would retain some control over ensuring that Steven has secure and stable housing. You may not agree or there may be reasons which I am not aware of which mean that a joint-tenancy is not feasible.

    Why did Hillingdon fight the case so hard? I do not believe that if you had won that it would have had far-reaching policy implications and increased the cost of the Housing Benefit bill, neither do I believe that it would have opened the floodgates to similar claims, the circumstances of your case are unusual, so I am left wondering whether this was a case of Hillingdon trying to avoid further negative publicity. Whatever, Hillingdon has a duty of care towards Steven, I believe that they have repeatedly failed to fulfil this duty. Maybe it is time for a senior member of every department involved with Steven, including the Housing and Benefits departments, to sit round a table with you and negotiate a way forward which is in both Steven’s and your best interests because you know Steven better than anyone and without family carers who are willing to give up and devote their lives to the people they love this country would soon be broke.

    I am so sorry, Mark, I wish I could have come up with something more helpful

    Annie

    • Annie – thank you so much for putting so much effort into trying to find a resolution. I don’t want to write too much on here as I dont want to alert Hillingdon but I have had several legal people contact me who are willing to take up the case, so I’m going to pass things over to them. Mark

      • Annie permalink

        I’m really pleased to hear that, Mark. And I did realise when looking at your blog for more information that what was posted on here would be limited through necessity, in fact I felt quite constrained when posting my last reply and read and edited it a number of times before submitting. The fact that people have been to feel like this through their contact with services should be cause for concern but it isn’t, silencing people, leaving them so traumatised that they can’t even speak to people who they trust about what has happened to them and the people for whom they care(d) let alone publicise it is one of the ways of ensuring that general public have no idea what can and does go wrong and so it continues unchecked, more people damaged, destroyed, thank you for speaking out and good luck. Annie

  9. Liz. permalink

    I thought as Steven’s Deputy, you got to decide whether he could enter into a tenancy agreement, not the LA.? As for them using his damages, there are also rules on disregarding certain compensation awards held in the CoP. The law/rules are very complicated and unclear, so it is good you have people who can help you with this.

    Apart from the cost, the role of the CoP is a bit hard to fathom – but aren’t they supposed to look out for Steven’s best interests as well? According to this link, there is someone you can ring up to talk to about tenancies without having to make a formal application:

    http://www.mentalhealthlaw.co.uk/images/COP_guidance_on_tenancy_agreements_June_2011.pdf

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