What is gatekeeping?
Gatekeeping is when people are denied the help, services and support they are legally entitled to by council staff employing different tactics to turn us away and make us give up. Gatekeeping is very common is housing offices when people go to make homeless applications and also in social services when people try to access housing help.
Southwark housing office has a particularly bad reputation for gatekeeping. In February, a High Court judge ordered Southwark council ‘to cease with immediate effect the policies and practices’ which had seen a homeless family refused help by the council and told to look for their own accommodation in the private sector. In May, a homeless man, Mr Kanu, who had been denied help by Southwark council, won in the Supreme Court where the judge ruled that Mr Kanu was entitled to housing. Sadly, Mr Kanu died shortly after this victory. Despite these legal cases, we know that Southwark housing office still continues to gatekeep homeless people.
What does it mean? What are the impacts?
The effects of gatekeeping are to keep vulnerable homeless people homeless or in unsafe, overcrowded housing. It denies them the immediate housing help they need and their place on the housing register so that they might eventually access secure social housing.
Charities are predicting a particularly bad winter with high street homelessness this year with gatekeeping playing a role in this.
Women trying to escape violence have nowhere safe to go.
For the housing office, it means that their homelessness statistics are kept low so that the true scale of homelessness is hidden.
How do you spot it?
Housing office staff say things like: “I can tell you now, you are intentionally homeless”
“You need to bring more evidence before we can start a homeless application and give you interim housing.”
“We can’t help you, you need to find your own housing in the private sector.”
“You’re not homeless until the bailiffs evict you.”
“If you have a roof, then you are not homeless.”
“If they have a pulse, then they’re not vulnerable”
How can we challenge it?
London Coalition Against Poverty has been going since 2007 and is made up of local groups who meet up and provide support and action on each others housing issues. LCAP groups have long been challenging gatekeeping at their local housing offices by:
Making sure that people know their rights
Providing buddies for each other to attend the housing office together
Visiting the housing office as a big group and refusing to leave until a homeless application has been accepted.
Regular leafleting outside housing offices to talk to people about their rights and the housing group and local campaigns and actions challenging gatekeeping at a local housing office.
Don’t struggle alone! It’s easy for them to turn one person away, but if we stand up for each other, we can fight for the support and services that we all need and deserve. We welcome you to get involved and help us organise more ways to challenge gatekeeping.