Thursday, 24 September 2009

Who really cares?

I was sent an email today that contained a link to a recent Channel 4 News item on the plight of single women fleeing domestic violence.

As anyone who works in the field of homelessness, be it for a local authority, a legal representative or a charity organisation we all know that gatekeeping goes on day in day out throughout the country.

I noted that in part of the C4 report "the minister for the homeless, Ian Austin, said: "Homelessness legislation and guidance is clear – local authorities must by law assess all adults who have had to leave their home as a result of domestic abuse and have asked for housing assistance.

"Even if a woman is homeless but not in priority need, local authorities must ensure that they are given advice and assistance to help them find somewhere to live for themselves."

I was surprised that the Minister didn't try to say that the reason for the reduction in accepted cases was due to the prevention policy that the government forces onto local authorities, perhaps as Mr Austin was only appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government in June 2009 he has yet to be corrupted by the architects of the prevention at all costs brigade.

A further point I'd like to make that the minister made was the issue of Advice and assistance. Whilst this may sound really helpful in most areas I have worked it all it really meant was handing out a photocopied sheet with hostel telephone numbers or the Shelter 24 hour advice number.

The issue of Gatekeeping does not only affect those people fleeing domestic violence, but ALL those who are being stopped from making a homelessness application, due to the governments blinkered approach on putting prevention above the law!

With respect to the exercise that CRISIS did in respect of 5 London local authorities it makes for damning reading on how homeless people are being dealt with. Their research briefing can be found on the link above. It would have been interesting to see which councils they had visited.

And finally the C4 item said that the NSPCC and the Equality and Human Rights Commission "were to take action against those Local Authorities who they believe provide inadequate protection". Has anyone head what actions they are looking to take? Because other than Judicial Review I can't see how they can hope to achieve anything?