Our Stories: The flat my daughter lives in is unsafe for her but Lambeth Council have failed to act.

Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth believes that everybody should have access to housing that is of good quality, truly affordable, secure, and meets their needs. We’ll be sharing our stories about our housing and welfare issues on our blog in order to document some of the housing problems we face in Lambeth and Southwark and to encourage other people facing similar issues to get involved in our group. We’ll also be blogging on the collective action that we take in order to deal with the problems we face.

When Valerie* first got involved in HASL she told us of the enormous struggle she has been having with Lambeth council to get her daughter re-housed because the flat that she is currently living in is inappropriate for her.

Jessica, Valerie’s daughter, suffers from epilepsy and for the last two years she has been taking medication to deal with seizures which have been brought on by stress. This medication sometimes causes hallucinations or blackouts, and in August 2012 lead to her falling from her fourth floor balcony. Fortunately the fall was not fatal. These unpredictable blackouts mean that living in a fourth floor flat with her three children, as well as having to use the flights of stairs as there is no lift, poses a significant risk to her. A medical assessment taken after her fall confirmed that Jessica should be living in a flat without stairs yet the council have failed to treat this case with the urgency it requires. Over a year later, Jessica is still living in the fourth floor flat where she is at risk of serious injury.

Valerie has sent several letters to the council and has visited her MP, Tessa Jowell, about the case. Lambeth council have failed to act on the case for over a year now whilst Tessa Jowell insultingly suggested that Jessica have her children taken in by social services! An absurd and utterly disrespectful suggestion. Clearly it is the housing that is the problem!

Valerie described the enormous emotional impact the dangerous housing and Lambeth’s inaction has had on her and her family:

“When my daughter fell from her balcony I thought she was dead, but to our relief (father/sisters/family) this was not the outcome, how ever since then I have been fighting with Lambeth Council to move my daughter from the fourth floor flat without any lift. The strain is taking its toll as all my actions have failed and fallen on to deaf ears and the visual impact not only on my daughters health but her three children’s mental state is pushing us all to the edge! My brother and I have been constant carers as my daughter continues to have seizures so we have to do the school and pre-school run even though we also have health issues.

Lambeth Living is one of the most uncaring statutory landlords I have come across.”

Valerie and HASL have written a joint letter to Lambeth council housing office on 10th October demanding that Jessica is urgently re-housed in a council flat that is appropriate for her and her family. We are still awaiting a response and action from the council and will be planning our own action in the meantime.

*The names in this blog have been changed to protect their privacy.

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