Helping a homeless family achieve secure accommodation

Family S was made homeless in April this year after their Housing Benefit was reduced by the introduction of a new cap and they were unable to afford the rent on their private rented accommodation.

The family has two young children, one of whom is seriously ill and was at the time receiving daily treatment at a central London hospital. The local authority was aware of this yet only told the family on the day of their eviction that they would be moved to B& B accommodation 15 miles outside London. This was entirely inappropriate – it required a 2 hour journey on public transport to the hospital each day, which was not just expensive; it also put the child’s health at further risk with exposure to unhygienic conditions through shared facilities in the B&B, and whilst travelling to and from the hospital.

Romin Sutherland, Next Door Project Manager at Z2K, with the support of local MP Karen Buck, was able to apply pressure on the council to get the family re-housed in more suitable temporary self-contained accommodation back in Central London. However the family’s long term housing prospects were far from certain and the family had never had their options, or the housing process clearly explained to them. Furthermore the family believed they had been dealt with in an extremely insensitive manner throughout, including rude behaviour by members of staff.  The stress and uncertainty suffered by the family had been further compounded by a series of administrative and IT errors.

Once the family had been re-housed, Jackie Reiss, Case Review Manager at Z2K continued to apply pressure on the council via the complaints service, including accompanying the family to a meeting with the council. We wanted to resolve the admin mistakes, ascertain the longer term housing options and to ensure that their son’s medical condition was taken into account and the family given appropriately high priority in future housing decisions.

Last week we finally received the very welcome news from the family that they had been successful in bidding for a Housing Association property which was within the borough, close to the hospital and could potentially become a long term home. They are now excitedly preparing to move in.

Sadly however, the family’s appalling story is not unusual. Vulnerable families and individuals continue to be confused and unaware of their rights and benefits, often accepting a desperate situation because they simply don’t know how to question and challenge the bureaucracy they are faced with. Family S were fortunate that they were referred to Z2K for support.

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