My trip to Housing Options

Last year I accompanied my client to Housing Options to make a homeless person’s application. I felt it was necessary to go with him, because he was being subject to gatekeeping by the local authority, and is very vulnerable with severe depression and PTSD. The client had gone to Housing Options four times previously. Although they had reason to believe that he was homeless and eligible, and had a duty to make enquiries, they had failed to do this. The local authority were also avoiding my questions about why they had not issued him with a decision notice to say whether they accepted a duty towards him or not. At Z2K, we see many clients who tell us they have not managed to make a homeless person’s application to their local authority and going to Housing Options made it clear to me how they manage to gatekeep so effectively. Continue reading

Case update

We previously did a blog in November about Jack who was a tenant of a housing association property at which his mother also lived with him. As we previously explained Jack had accrued some historic rent arrears which led to  to a suspended possession order being made against him.

Whilst a large amount of the arrears were extinguished by the backdated Housing Benefit payment we secured there was still some arrears due to non-dependent deductions being taken from his housing benefit entitlement for his mother who was in receipt of Employment Support Allowance. His mother was contributing towards the arrears and other debts they had for heating.

We advised Jack to make a claim for Person Independence Payment which would make him exempt from the deductions and also assisted him applied for Dictionary Housing Payment to cover the historic non-dependent deductions. An award was made and now a only a small amount of rent arrears are left, which Jack and his mother are paying. This means they are no longer at risk of losing their home.

Case study of an ESA sanction

Glenda came to Stepping Stones when her ESA stopped unexpectedly. She struggles to understand official correspondence and needed help working out what had happened, and what she needed to do next. Her Housing Benefit had stopped as well, but again she was not aware of why this had happened. She had started building up rent arrears and was getting very concerned about a possible eviction.

We went through her correspondence, and it transpired that her ESA had been sanctioned. Glenda is in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG), meaning that her entitlement is dependent on her attending work-focussed training aimed at improving work prospects once a person’s health improves. She had missed three of these appointments, and so her ESA had been sanctioned indefinitely until she re-attended the Work Programme. She was awarded ESA due to numerous serious health problems, all of which present variable symptoms. Some days she is in too much pain to get out of bed, and other days she can just about function normally. In May last year, she suffered a prolonged flare up and her GP referred her to a specialist. She was too ill to attend the Work Programme, so her GP signed a sick note which she sent to the Jobcentre and the Work Programme provider. She was sanctioned for missing three appointments after she had circulated this sick note, despite leaving voicemails for her work coach. Continue reading

Case comment: London Borough of Hackney v Haque [2017] EWCA Civ 4

This post provides commentary to an important recent housing case.

In LB Hackney v Haque [2017] EWCA Civ 4, the Court of Appeal was asked to decide on the extent of the duties imposed by s.149 Equality Act 2010 (the ‘public sector equality duty’, or PSED) with regards to reviews conducted under the Housing Act 1996 into the suitability of accommodation offered to homeless persons.

The full judgment is available here. Numbers in square brackets refer to paragraphs in the judgment as it appears on BAILII. Continue reading