Jennifer is facing homelessness with her two young boys because she wouldn’t move into the same area as the family of her violently abusive ex-husband. Take action (below) to tell Barnet Council that protecting your family from the threat of violence should not leave you at risk of homelessness!
When Jennifer and her two sons, recently evicted from Sweets Way, were offered accommodation in the same post code as her violent ex-husband’s sister, she asked Barnet Homes to review the offer. The thought of crossing paths with him was too much. She couldn’t live with that possibility.
Barnet Homes, however, operate a single offer policy, which means that if you don’t accept one offer of ‘suitable’ housing, you can be discharged from their housing list for two years. Which is exactly what they did to Jennifer and her sons.
She appealed the decision, but had it turned down again, and received an extensive letter from Barnet last week which told her the only recourse she had left was to go to the courts, or present herself and her children to Shelter or another homelessness charity.
Even after having been initially moved to Waltham Forest, nearly 10 miles from Sweets Way, her work, and the boys’ school, Barnet Council have informed Jennifer that she will need to vacate her temporary accommodation by the 2nd of June. But like so many others, she has not been able to find anywhere to rent privately within her budget.
Barnet Homes dismissed Jennifer’s concerns about seeing her abusive ex-husband because his more recent threats had ‘only’ been via Facebook and email. As a result, they claim there is no reason to worry about her or her children’s safety! (“…the only threat ]since August 2013] you have received from them as been in form of e-mails and Facebook, these are threats that are not related to areas as they are online threats and can be experienced anywhere.”) However, Local government guidance on dealing with homelessness and domestic violence states unequivocally: “there must be no risk of domestic violence (actual or threatened) in the other district [where a family is to be moved]…” This criteria has clearly not been satisfied, even by Barnet Homes’ own admission.
This is totally unacceptable, a neglect of the Council’s duty to Jennifer’s children and an insult to every family that has experienced domestic violence.
Can you take any of the actions below to support Jennifer and hold Barnet to account?
- Join us outside of Barnet Homes, 11am on Friday (May 22), as Jennifer meets with them inside, to send a clear message that a home which increases the threat of violence is not ‘suitable’ for a family. [http://on.fb.me/1EiLSlL]
- Tweet Barnet Council [http://bit.ly/1R2teYK] or write on their Facebook page [http://on.fb.me/1Hrkeb6] and tell them what you think of this kind of dismissive treatment of family who has already been through so much hardship.
- Send an email to Ward Councillor Richard Cornelius and MP Theresa Villiers, asking them to ensure Barnet Homes take Jennifer’s concerns seriously, and that they provide her and her sons with appropriate accommodation in Barnet. A template letter and contact details are below.
Jennifer is not alone in all of this. We are standing together with her and we will do whatever is needed to ensure a decent home for her family. It is exactly Barnet’s dismissive treatment of the issue of domestic violence that allows it to remain the epidemic that it is.
We all have a right to a home that is free from the fear of violence.
Here are the contact details for Richard Cornelius and Theresa Villiers, and a template letter you can adapt and send them. (Be sure to mention if you are from their constituency, as they have an obligation to respond to you then).
MP Theresa Villiers
0208 449 7345
Councillor Richard Cornelius
0208 359 2059
SUBJECT: Barnet Council’s responsibility re: domestic violence and housing
Dear Cllr Cornelius / Ms Villiers,
I am writing in regards to Jennifer and her two sons, formerly of the Sweets Way estate.
The Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities to the 2002 Homelessness Act states that:
“A high standard of proof of actual [domestic] violence in the past should not be imposed. The threshold [for suitable accommodation] is that there must be:
no risk of domestic violence (actual or threatened) in the other district [where the family is being moved]…”
As elected representatives for Jennifer’s local area, you have a legal duty to provide her and her children with suitable accommodation where she can feel safe from both actual and threatened violence. Barnet Homes’ decision to discharge duties towards her and her kids will leave them homeless, because they chose to avoid the potential risk of abuse.
As you know, according to the Housing Act 1996 and the Homelessness Act 2002, the priority should always be for a client to be and to feel safe. Current treatment from the local authority has failed to meet this criteria.
I ask that you urgently review Barnet Homes’ decision and rehouse Jennifer and her children with suitable local accommodation, free from the kinds of threats described above.
I also expect that any future cases will be treated with the same care outlined above.
A concerned constituent