Thursday, 28 August 2008

Well I'm back

Sorry I haven't posted recently but due to being the victim of a burglary I've only just replaced the computer. I suppose that every cloud has a silver lining as I now have a snazzy lap top and a pc

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

A challenge to the advice agencies out there

Why or why has no homeless charity decided to go undercover and do a mystery shopper exercise so that they can name and shame the LA's that are gatekeeping and denying people the right to make Part VII applications?

Until this issue is pushed into the public domain, more and more people will be stopped from homelessness applications.

In my authority its become a case of not taking an application until the latest possible moment, people are being made to stay in overcrowded conditions whilst privarely rented accommodation is sought for them. Even when property is obtained they are forced at times to accept the property by tactics that border on bullying

Monday, 28 July 2008

Lions led by donkeys

Heard a terrific bit of tittle tattle from a colleague of mine in another local authority. Apparently their head honcho (and I do mean top of the tree), is telling the managers that there are no homeless people in that borough, just people with housing needs.
Maybe I should hold a competition to see if anyone can identify this escaped lunatic, oops fingers slipped, meant wise man. Prize could be a something exciting like.......a free picture of that individual to do with what you liked

Talk about spending a penny......

Well this is a very interesting set of figures, the GMB union has just obtained how much local authority's spend on temporary and agency staff. Want to see how much your council is spending? Check where your money is going? As the union says it would be better if the local authorities spent the money on permanent posts

I'm still struggling to comprehend the figures, £1.7 billion spent in total!

A comment I recieved

Following my post below on the Trailblazers" scheme I recieved the following by email, "If you aren't up on welfare and benefits should you really be giving housing advice? Your employer should be providing this training, surely?"

Well, housing advisors advice as it says on the tin, they give housing advice. Whilst I have had basic training on welfare benefits I am not an expert. I would hate to give incorrect advice to a client that led to them losing out. As anyone recognises welfare benefits are a highly specialised area

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

A request to housing advisors or homelessness officers

I thought I'd make an offer to any housing advisors or homeless persons officers out there reading this. If you have any stories about clients that you would like to send me feel free and I'll post them here. Of course I'll make sure that the both the client and yourself remain anonymous.

Please feel free to email me and I'll add your war stories here


I note that the DLCG has announced a new initiative called "Trailblazers." Maybe its me being a cynic but the name alone reminds me of a cowboy tv series, is this a continuation of Caroline Flints speech earlier this year in respect of forcing new council tenants to get jobs?

I have a lot of experience of seeing clients and giving homelessness or housing advice, but I am not a specialist in welfare benefits! Also what is the role of job centres in all this? I bet the staff who have to take on additional duties won't get a pay raise!

This to me is just the government playing politics with people in need. I can not accept that this will benefit any applicants. A cowboy idea from a bunch of cowboys wearing black hats

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Why hasn't any one said anything before?

I found this article tonight. What I don't understand is why is it only now when the 2010 target for reducing the number of people in temporary accommodation is just around the corner, do the London Authorities raise this point? Surely it can't be because as many officers said when the target was announced that it was unrealistic and wouldn't be reached? Sorry to sound cynical but its amazing how senior management and councillors are unwilling to tell to tell central governement the truth

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Have you ever had one of those days?

Today was one of those days that make me want to grab a client or two and shake them them until I see reality appear in their eyes. Harsh I hear one or two of you shout from the back rows (or the cheap seats as I call them). Maybe if I lay out a few of the cases I dealt with today then you can see where my frustration comes from. I was on duty seeing walk in cases today, these are new or existing cases that we have accepted a duty too. Things were going nicely till about 10am, I'd managed to help someone with problems with a medical condition who required a transfer to more suitable accommodation, managed to get my second mug of coffee of the morning and I was feeling that all was fine in the world. Now stop chuckling I can hear you, I can't help being an optimist! I was called to the front desk as another client had arrived. I'm not 100% certain but I might have headed out to see them humming something like "What a wonderful world". The client (who was a single person aged 17) had been offered temporary accommodation and wished to refuse it because it didn't have a garden. Well I explained the consequences of refusual, that they could sign up and seek a review of the suitability. I asked why they thought they should have a garden and was told it was their right! I explained politely that wasn't the case, and got told yes it was under European law. Again I told them that wasn't the case. Then to make matters worse the clients mother came in to the interview cubicle. The mother then started saying if there child had come from abroad then they would get a place with a garden. As my good mood was still upon me, I again explained what would happen if they refused the offer or they could sign up and move in and seeek a review. But by know the client and their mother wouldn't listen. I offered to give the client a 24 hour period and got told to do something that would be anatomically impossible even if I was a a contortionist! And the client stormed off out of the building. A little while later I saw a client who we had made a not homeless decision on as they had accommodation in UK that was reasonable and available for them. I explained the decision to them. They accepted that the facts were correct in the section 184 letter but they said that they wanted to rent out their other property and wanted a council place to live in and it was their right to have a council house. I explained that wasn't the case (though by now my good mood was disappearing faster than Labour in the popularity polls). I explained that the client could seek a review so they said that they wanted to, I again pointed out that they had agreed with all the information in the decision letter. I was rather astonished when they said they hadn't, I pointed that they had I had noted it on their file. The client then became very very abusive and insisted on seeing my manager. I got my manager and the client then proceeded to insist that all the officers they had seen in our officer were liars and that the decision was all wrong. My manager and I then spent the next hour going through our investigations with them and what they had said at previous interviews and showed them documentation that we had obtained. The client asked to see the documentation, we passed over the documents and both my manager and I were astounded when the client grabbed the documents and run out of the office with them. Bearing in mind we had only given the client photocopies we nearly wet ourselves laughing

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Just in a light hearted mood tonight

I was wandering about the internet when I found this article on the BBC about something called Smirting. Seems us non-smokers are missing out!

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Friends in low places

Met up with a friend who works over in a borough in the East London that is striving to reach Olympian heights. They also work in homelessness, they told me their authority doesn't take homelessness applications from victims of domestic violence. In the main they are just seeking hostel or refuges for them, so they can claim they have prevented homelessness. Is that the sound of the legal profession leaning forward to pull their judicial letters closer to them?

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Lies, damned lies, and statistics

Well its that time of the year that the Department of Communities and Local Government release the quarterly homelessness statistics and without sounding like an anorak about homelessness they do make interesting reading when you take a look at the Local Authority breakdown. I note that looking through the returns for London in particular that firstly it appears that Tower Hamlets return must have been lost in the post, or maybe left on a train. Secondly I'm surprised how many not homeless decisions that Croydon made, 229! I was also astonished by the amount of non-priority that both Ealing and Waltham Forest made 165 and 124, what makes me think they avail themselves of Now Medical in their medical assessments. Though a special mention must be made of Blackpool who made made 357 non-priority decisions whilst making one not homeless decision and 12 itentionality decisions.
More surpising is the total of 7,470 applicants in the UK that are recorded as Homeless at home. I thought that homeless at home didn't happen officially.

Please feel free to comment on any of the other statistics that catch your eyes

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

More on 16/17 year olds

I have been told by a good source within my office that in the near future our management have decided that all 16/17 year old's who approach as homeless are going to be pushed towards accepting placement with young people projects or foyer projects. Apparently we are accepting too many young people as homeless. Of course the young people won't be given impartial advice. No one will tell them that if they accept and in a couple of years the projects don't have move on accommodation then they will be on there own having to find their own accommodation.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Who says crime doesn't pay????

I had a woman in the office today with her two children who was fleeing domestic violence from temporary accommodation. The perpetrator was her husband. She had been admitted to the hospital over the weekend due to the assault she had suffered and the police were involved. Whilst we accommodated the family today, my problem is that the husband who assaulted her will continue to be accommodated in temporary accommodation as he was the person we initially accepted a duty towards, so all we can do is to move him to a smaller property

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Social Services................not very social

One of the greatest frustrations I encounter in doing my job is getting Social Services to assist by doing an assessment of a clients needs. Social Services appear to not understand why an assessment is needed if we are providing the client with accommodation. Even my managers (who I have been known to moan about), are frustrated trying to get Social Services to accept their duty. In my view all 16/17 year olds should have an assessment by social services to see what services can be offered to them. Whilst the issued Homelessness strategy in any Authority I've worked paid lip service to joined up working between council departments this just doesn't happen.

And before anyone mentions it yes I do mention R (On The Application of M) (Fc) V London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham decision to Social Services!

Also found a site which also has some views on this subject

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Not so much as a rat trap as a poverty trap!

Sorry I've not posted for awhile but half term reared its ugly head and little people required attention. I was considering the issue that LA's actually cause people to become benefit reliant when they place people into B&B or into temporary accommodation. Where I work the cost of the temporary accommodation is over £350 per week so therefore those people who are working and find themselves homeless are actually discriminated against and there is no incentive for those on benefits to seek work. I know that housing benefit can be claimed but in my view too little is done to ensure that people are given accommodation that is truely affordable. I wonder what other peoples views are?

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Money for nothing?

I understand from former colleagues of mine that some local authorities are paying landlords a bounty for each property they supply for for private letting to applicants. I've been told that these bountys can run into many hundreds of pounds. Of course though the authoritys are not inspecting these propertys and of course some of these propertys are in poor condition!

Monday, 19 May 2008

Who looks after the children?

Whilst the national papers have been have been full of the Peace Sandberg story I have experienced a a number of parents who when their relationships have broken down have used their children to give the homeless partner a priority need for accommodation. Trying to prove that the parental responsibility is contrived is nearly next to impossible to prove

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Losing my grip on sanity

Help...........I think I'm ready to be carted off by those nice chaps who provide you with jackets that do up at the back. I was on duty today and had an applicant who wanted to refuse a offer of temporary accommodation as he said the living room wasn't big enough for his home cinema system!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Frustration with the Emperors New Clothes

As a homelessness officer I'm fed up up of hearing all the priority being put on prevention. I find some of the tactics used to make people move into privately rented property dubious to say the least, even illegal at times. Senior management and central government are only worried about figures and don't consider the service users at all. I know of clients that have attended our office requesting to make a homelessness application but they have been fobbed off for months and months whilst privately rented accommodation is sought for them, then the case is passed over once the clients legal representatives start acting for them

Friday, 9 May 2008

Well hello

As from my perusual of the blogs available regarding homelessness and noticing that most of them were from either the legal community or advocates for homelessness, I decided to write this to give you a view from the inside of a local authority.

I've been working in homeless persons unit for many a long year so I look forward to giving my views on various issues