For 5 months one of our members, undergoing a basic homelessness process, has faced terrible treatment from Lambeth council. Since our group started, we’ve supported many of our members in Lambeth with their housing problems. We’ve repeatedly faced Lambeth’s gatekeeping and denial of support to vulnerable people, its many dubious and questionable schemes designed to stop homeless people from securing the legal duties they are entitled to, and its general incompetence.
Many of our members have been wrongly turned away by the council when they present as homeless. Sometimes, through sheer persistence, sometimes with a buddy support them, they may manage to see an official from the Housing Advice and Options team. This official is likely to be from the ‘Preventions’ desk – second line defence staff, not someone who deals with the homeless assessments. Instead of opening a homeless application the council is effectively ”pre-screening” applicants through an unnecessary, intrusive and drawn out process. Many find themselves unable to properly begin the formal homeless application.
We’ve experienced this directly and very recently. Our member, M, went through Housing Advice and Options service last September, where she was inaccurately told that she’d likely be found ‘intentionally homeless’. Once the mountain of required evidence the official needed was submitted, she was then booked in for her homeless assessment interview and completed that on 11th October (after chasing the council to make sure the assessment was being booked). Having eventually secured this important homeless assessment appointment, the council then attempted to deny the application by being really difficult and terrible with corresponding and communicating on the case with the family.
Since the interview, the deadline for Lambeth to reach a final written decision has come and gone (it was due in late November). The family are still waiting to hear from the council, and all attempts to impress the urgency of the situation have been met with obfuscation. We submitted a stage one complaint, which resolved nothing, so have now escalated the matter to a stage two complaint, with further action underway because it is uncertain how successful the internal complaint process will be in this case with this council.
This situation is one experienced by countless people across Lambeth, many of whom we’ve met, many of whom we haven’t. Each of them has been repeatedly failed by a council which seems to show little regard for statutory, or it’s own, responsibilities, which misleads and harms its residents and continues to keep thousands of families trapped in unsuitable and unsafe housing conditions. We are stronger when we fight this together!
Lambeth: give M a full homeless duty and provide her and her family with suitable temporary accommodation in the borough until more long-term decent council housing can be found!