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Erring Again

October 16, 2014

I was just listening to the Radio 5 Live discussion about Lord Freud’s remarks about disabled people. I suddenly realised that it was 2 years ago today that I was interviewed by Victoria Derbyshire on the same show about Hillingdon’s decision to stop my housing benefit, which led to over a year of terrible stress whilst Steven and I faced the prospect of becoming homeless.

Yesterday, 14 months after the Lower Tier tribunal rejected my appeal, I received notification that the Upper Tier judge had allowed my appeal:

“The decision of the first tier tribunal contained an error on a point of law. Accordingly, I allow the appeal and I set aside the tribunal’s decision”.

The case rested on Hillingdon’s assertion that half the value of the matrimonal home was available to me. I could collect my half share (despite the fact, my very sick wife was living there) and that share disallowed me from housing benefit.

The judge gave Hillingdon’s valuation and decusion short shrift:

“As a matter of common sense, it seems unlikely in the extreme that a purchaser would pay just under half the vacant possession of a property for a half interest that would not enable him to occupy the property without first obtaining some sort of court order against a person suffering from paranoid schizophrenia who was in occupation of a former matrimonial home, bought for the purpose of being a home, and who might be entitled to a property adjustment order. If the tribunal wished to find as a fact that the value of the claimant’s interest was £109k, it was incumbent on the tribunal to give adequate reasons for a finding which was so far from inherently probable”.

So, we won. I dont feel any sense of victory. I dont feel joyous. I feel a confusing mixture of exhaustion and anger.

Twice in four years, Hillingdon have made unlawful decisions that have had enormous impacts on me and my family. There will be no consequences for them for this latest ” erring”, just as there wasnt for their illegal detention of Steven for the whole of 2010. Their err is met with a shrug of the shoulders.

And it feels like we’re about to face another battle. In my last blog post, “Cheap Nights”, I wrote about how Steven may be prevented from living in his own home, after I’ve gone, because they could find a cheaper way of providing his care, regardless of his best interests.

I was feeling pretty down anyway after reading the judgment but on the way home from work last night, the bus pulled up by the supported living flats that the social worker talked about on Tuesday. It was just after 7pm. All the lights were on. Nobody was in the communal room. There was one guy, probably a support worker, sitting on a chair in the passageway, reading a paper. Where were all the residents? I guess they were all in their flats, on their own, trapped there for the rest of the night. Nobody to talk to. Nobody interested. I cried. That scenario would terrify Steven.

To err is human. But Hillingdon’s two errs, were completely devoid in seeing anyone human in their decisions.


From → Social Care

  1. Bernadette John permalink

    It’s the fact that local councils are never accountable when they are found in the wrong which enables them to act like cowboys. We had to take our LA to an education tribunal to prove that the school they were offering was not suitable for our son. The Tribunal agreed. But it cost us £16K in legal costs/specialist reports etc which we are not entitled to get back, as we would be able to in any other area of law where we were the wronged party. The Tribunal even stated that our LA had been underhand in its dealings with us.

    • Pauline Thomas permalink

      Mark wondering what will happen to Steven after you have gone is the stuff of nightmares.

      I think this particular nightmare is shared by many older family carers who find themselves worrying just how many years they can go on fighting their loved ones corner. I understand completely why so many parents hope they outlive their disabled loved ones. A wish that goes against the laws of any caring society.

      It should not be this way. How many times do the policy makers have to be told that some people with LD, or more like most people with LD cannot take change. Especially change that leaves them anxious and depressed. What is there not to understand about that? They hear but they do not listen. Listen! I do not want to fill in any more questionnaires on how they are doing and what they can do better. It is just a timewaster that only is carried out to make it seem that they are doing something.. They are not! They should just simply listen to the families that are begging for help. No questionnaires needed. Just listen and act.

    • simone aspis permalink

      John read your email with interest – what type of schooling were you attempting to get for your son?

  2. Shirley Buckley permalink

    Mark At the moment I am trying to get the LAback in the Court of Protection to be answerable in law to mistakes they have made. This is mind boggling – I am alone taking on the LA, judges lawyers doctors merely to protect my son, who himself applied to the Court. AND I can only send this blog because I finally goy permission to publish in July..

  3. Sally permalink

    I have been sitting down trying to plan good supported housing -such as wouldn’t make you cry, such as would be a nice thing to think about. It seems to me its not so very much.It does require more staff, and staff who have it in their ruthlessly enforced job descriptions to interact with residents-chat, play, be a friendly presence.It would require having a program of activities up to bedtime-and a good idea of which residents need their space at night and which need to be helped to participate.In short, it knowing the people in their care and what makes them happy, knowing that someone not being a bother doesn’t mean you can sit down and read a paper.All LD people are not alike, and some find it really hard to live with certain types of behavior so you’d need enough housing for some sort of matching to go the group houses.Who will get along with who?
    The idea that LD people are alike, that they can just be lumped together-after all they’re all the same-is almost treating the LD as less than human.
    In my most despairing moments I feel like Aunt Lucy sending Paddington off into the future with a label tied to him. “Please look after this bear.”
    Not cure, not change, just look after.Kindly.

    • simone aspis permalink

      It’s simple workers who support people with LDs to have a life of their choosing – that involves supporitng people with LDs to engage in whatever the community has to offer and indeed to create opportunites for the communities if they are not there. Would not it be great to see people with LDs involve in a wide range of activities.

  4. Anglea permalink

    Sorry to use this to answer another commentator but to Shirley ….take the LA to court for damages…emotional abuse ect……how their “underhand” actions have impacted your life…. Or your child’s ….just a thought …….good luck x

  5. weary mother permalink


    Shirley would have to self fund her litigation if she is seeking damages for her own emotional abuse by LA?

    And legal aid has been cut in many areas where in the past a case could be state/legal aided?

    In our direct experience: where a vulnerable individual has a learning disability even if damage and lengthy neglect is EVENTUALLY proved/admitted, the original disability can make it unlikely that damages will be sufficient for a no win no fee case. And as we were told by all solicitors, ”LA would drag out the case until it became too expensive to proceed”.

    Witness the truly horrific Longcare case (read John Pring’s book) where the families had to self fund, and running out of funds had to settle with the negligent LA , for what seems a pitifully low amount (in context of the abuses) out of court .

    This playing field has bomb craters……..

  6. Shirley Buckley permalink

    I am self funding. I am not seeking anything at the moment except advice as to how to proceed. I wont use lawyers – they are a waste of time and money, so I am a litigant in person. My son himself gets legal aid, but this was used by the barrister against me. The judge has threatened me with an injuction to stop my contact with Martin and his carers. AND the LA have taken £22000 of Martin’s money to pay towards his residential care home fees illegally.

  7. I can understand totally the sadness, the tears, and the dispondency you felt when driving past the supported living home. I cried too with my head in my hands when I read a negative report about a care home the other evening. The fear for the future of my own daughter, the fear for those living in that home and in hundreds of other homes across the country. I felt at a loss that we allow it to happen.

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