Barnet tell Mostafa he’s on his own now

After months of inaccessible housing offers, a brutal eviction and an ongoing refusal to recognise the extent of his disability, Barnet Homes have discharged their duty to house Mostafa and his family, leaving them alone to find a home! Barnet need to hear from ALL of us this week!

Photo: Micha Theiner (The Independent)

Photo: Micha Theiner (The Independent)

Last Wednesday afternoon, after going to hospital earlier in the week with a stress-related illness following his eviction, Mostafa went back to his GP to get a stronger painkiller prescription. As is not uncommon when changing medication, the new drugs left him exhausted, hardly able to stay awake.

Mostafa’s son, Ash, emailed Barnet Homes to say that, under duress, his father was planning to sign for and accept the current inaccessible housing offer, but was unable to do so before the 2pm deadline they had decided upon, due to the side effects of his change in medication. He received no response.

At 7pm, he received a reply: it told him that his father had missed the latest deadline to accept the property and that Barnet Homes were discharging their duty to him. This also comes after a new letter from Mostafa’s GP, presented to Barnet Homes, outlined the exact extent of Mostafa’s needs. The letter was rejected by Barnet, even after they had asked for further evidence of his disability, claiming it wasn’t sufficient and that only a letter from a hospital consultant – which often take months to secure – would be accepted.

After a discharge, Mostafa will be determined to be ‘intentionally homeless,’ a twisted use of language that aims to blame people who have suffered through unjust treatment by the Council, for their situation. If this discharge of duty is upheld, Mostafa will have incredibly limited recourse to housing support in the next two years, and it will be much harder to challenge the three years of mistreatment he has already received from the Council.

Barnet Homes need to reverse their decision NOW! And if they are going to do so, they need to know that the public spotlight hasn’t gone away after their family’s eviction. They need to hear from us!

Email Troy Henshall [troy.henshall@barnet.gov.uk], Chief Executive of Barnet Homes, and ask him to re-assume duty of care for Mostafa’s housing needs, effective immediately. You can find a template email here.

Barnet seem more concerned with asserting vindictive power over Mostafa’s life, than with living up to their duty of care. For the past several months, they have constantly said that a new home is within his reach, then have pulled it away at the last second, or claimed that yet another piece of information is required before they can act to address his needs. This is utterly shameful and the individuals responsible shouldn’t be allowed to stay in their jobs, as the details of Mostafa’s treatment come to light.

Barnet clearly thought that after the media explosion sparked by their cruel eviction of a wheelchair user, that attention would fade and they could get on with the dirty work of washing their hands of his situation. Let’s prove them wrong! We will not rest until Barnet have provided Mostafa with the home he needs and deserves!

Will Barnet Homes make Mostafa an accessible offer now?

We have news that gives Mostafa and his family a little hope. On Friday Ash, Mostafa’s son, obtained a letter from his GP as evidence that Mostafa needs a fully-wheelchair accessible home. Will Barnet Homes accept it?

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Will you help us and stand by Mostafa on Monday?

When: This Monday @ 12:30pm
Where: Outside Barnet Homes (1255 High Road, N20)
What: To deliver the latest petition names, and ask Barnet Homes to respect the medical opinions of Mostafa’s GP (and other health professionals), and make him an offer of a truly accessible property.

Here’s a rundown of what has happened in the last few days:

On Wednesday Mostafa was evicted from his current house on the Sweets Way estate. He was now homeless, and the urgency of the situation had multiplied.

But after delivering the 33,000 petition signatures gathered in his name to Barnet Homes, he received an email reiterating the same arguments he had heard countless times over: that based on the information they had, he was not in need of a fully-wheelchair accessible home. But it also included the following passage: “We will be happy to revisit this decision if we are able to receive further information from the consultant at the hospital you attend.”

Having approached the hospital for this evidence but knowing that hospital bureaucracy would mean waiting a long time for it, we thought about what might be the next-best-option. Mostafa has been seeing the same GP for nearly four years, since the accident that left him with his current disability. As the longest-standing health professional in Mostafa’s life, his GP seemed like a strong candidate to explain to Barnet Homes exactly the extent to which Mostafa can and cannot mobilise without a wheelchair.

Upon calling Barnet Homes on Mostafa’s behalf to confirm their receipt of the new evidence, we were immediately told: ‘this is not the evidence we asked for.’ We explained that it was the best that was available in the urgency of the current situation, and was in fact likely a stronger indicator of Mostafa’s medical needs, than that of a less-frequently-visited hospital consultant.

We were told that next week the new evidence would be reviewed and eventually promised that Mostafa’s current offer wouldn’t be withdrawn before Monday, but they would not commit to holding the property until a decision had been made by Barnet’s medical assessors.

Meanwhile, a family friend has agreed to let Mostafa stay with him over the weekend. This has only been possible because the friend’s son has agreed to stay with others ‘til Monday, leaving Mostafa his room. We need to be sure that on Monday, Barnet Homes looks rationally at the evidence before them, accepts the scale of Mostafa’s housing needs and either agrees to make the currently-offered home fully-wheelchair accessible, or to make him a new offer that is.

Since the petition delivery, thousands more of you that have added your names to the tally. We want to go back on Monday to re-submit the petition and ask that Barnet Homes make Mostafa a truly-suitable offer. They asked for more evidence, and Mostafa has provided it to the best of his ability; let’s hope this leads to a decision that works for all involved.

Join us at 12:30pm on Monday (Sept 28) outside Barnet Homes (1255 High Road, N20) to deliver the latest petition names, and ask them to respect the medical opinions of Mostafa’s GP (and other health professionals), and make him an offer of a truly accessible property.

Barnet Homes have decided that Mostafa can walk

Yesterday Barnet refused to commit to the renovations needed to make a house offered to the last Sweets Way family, accessible for Mostafa’s needs as a wheelchair user.

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Mostafa, in his home at Sweets Way

Barnet Homes decided, unequivocally on Monday, that Mostafa – a resident of the last Sweets Way household and a wheelchair user with serious spinal injuries – is able to walk. They refused to tell the family exactly how they had come to this conclusion.

This would be utterly ridiculous if the costs were not so high. Mostafa injured his back three years ago while working as a carer in a home for the elderly. Since then, Barnet Homes have bounced the family around between temporary accommodations, none of which have been suitable to Mostafa’s needs. But after years of indignity and challenges created by inadequate housing offers, Mostafa is clear that he will not settle for something that fails to meet his basic needs. His Sweets Way home is far from perfect, but he’s not keen to go through the stress of another move, only to find his situation worsened and access reduced.

The house offered by Barnet Homes is not in Barnet (it is in Enfield), miles away from Mostafa’s medical appointments, his five-year-old daughter’s school, and the family and support networks that Mostafa relies on. But even these concerns aside for a moment, there is nothing suitable about the property itself.

In spite of the facts, Barnet have decided that Mostafa is only a part-time wheelchair user, and that he only needs the wheelchair when he is outside of the house. They somehow came to this conclusion after reading the latest report from Mostafa’s occupational therapist, which includes the following passages:

  • “[Mostafa] reports having very limited confidence when mobilising without wheelchair. [He] described that when mobilising, his left leg can “collapse”, presenting a possible further falls risk, and this appears to be affecting his confidence to mobilise without use of his wheelchair.
  • [Mostafa] reported previous falls within the current and previous property, one of which he claimed had resulted in him becoming unconscious…
  • [Mostafa’s] medication regime also reportedly causes him significant dizziness and drowsiness, and the pain he experiences in the mornings does not abate for roughly 1.5 hours until his medication has taken effect.”

And were these quotes not evidence enough, they are corroborated by several other reports, by Mostafa’s GP, a local disability charity, and several other medical professionals and experts. Finally, that same occupational therapist report recommends that a new home “should feature doorways that are wide enough to allow [Mostafa] to mobilise independently in his wheelchair.” This is simply not the case at the new house and Barnet Homes claims there is simply no need for it to be.

When asked how they came to the conclusion that Mostafa was ‘able to mobilise within the house with the use of a cane,’ they could only say that ‘we make our assessments based on looking at the range of factors available to us.’ What specifically those factors were, and how the assessment came to so thoroughly contradict the statements about Mostafa’s need for a wheelchair-friendly home, remains shrouded in mystery. All the officials will say is that ‘we’re clearly not going to agree on the assessment,’ as though Mostafa’s ability to get in and out of rooms in his house was something that needed to be agreed upon!

Ultimately, because Barnet’s housing policy is so skewed towards finding any excuse to discharge people from its list, Mostafa accepted the place, but on the conditions that he will move once a series of basic health and safety questions have been adequately addressed, the main one being that the door frames are widened to allow his wheelchair to pass freely through them.

The coming days will determine the critical detail of the arrangement, though at this stage, Barnet expect Mostafa to move into a home that will require him to have twenty-four-hour adult support around to actually live in. They will not admit that this is the case, and though they have the power to discharge him from their housing list, they do not have the power to deny the realities of Mostafa’s disability.

The selective reading of Mostafa’s medical reports is unacceptable. We know that if they are doing this to him, they are inevitably doing the same to so many others. Their offer has been reluctantly accepted, but the details are still to be ironed out – and now is the moment when Barnet Homes needs to hear from all of us, so they know that they can’t simply pick-and-choose the facts they deem worthy of assessment and then decide what they are responsible for, based on hand-picked details, which they are unwilling to even reveal to the family involved.

Mostafa needs the following adaptations made to the property on offer, if it is going to be an acceptable place for him to live with his family:

  1. All ground floor door frames expanded to allow an independent wheelchair user to pass through easily,
  2. A stair lift so Mostafa can reach his daughter’s second floor bedroom.

Until these adaptations (as well as those already agreed to by Barnet) are complete, Mostafa would only be able to live in the new property with twenty-four hour assistance, for both practical needs and in case of emergencies. This is not acceptable.

We held a noisy protest outside Barnet Homes today, but we need to keep the pressure up. They need to know that London is watching them and will continue to stand with Mostafa.

Send Troy Henshall [Troy.Henshall@barnet.gov.uk], Interim Chief Executive of the Barnet Group (which owns Barnet Homes) an email right away, and tell him that Barnet needs to acknowledge the true state of Mostafa’s health, and then accept exactly what their responsibilities are.

Demand that they do exactly what is needed to make the new property accessible, and that they support Mostafa’s right to remain at Sweets Way until they can demonstrate, without doubt, that he will be safe and able to live independently in his new home!

Make sure Mostafa gets the home he needs!

Barnet Homes have made Mostafa an offer of a new house, but we need to make sure they will make it truly accessible for a wheelchair user before he accepts it. Join us on Monday to support Mostafa at Barnet Homes!

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You may have been following Mostafa’s story for some time now. As the last original resident on Sweets Way, we have rallied together to help keep him and his family in their home and to pressure Barnet to find him accommodation that truly meets his needs.

We have gone to court, been to meetings, held protests and resisted a High Court bailiff eviction attempt against him. And the pressure is working!

Last week, Barnet Homes offered Mostafa a long-term home. However, it was a home that didn’t meet his physical access needs. After some negotiation, Barnet have agreed to make some of the changes to the property that would make it accessible to a wheelchair user, though they refuse to acknowledge the difficulty Mostafa has within the house, without his wheelchair. They think it is fine for him to rely on a strong adult being there with him 24/7 to help him so-much-as go to the bathroom or kitchen, and don’t think it is important for him to be able to reach his five-year-old daughter in what-would-be her third floor bedroom.

Barnet have given the family until Monday afternoon to accept the house. If they don’t, Barnet have said they will declare the family ‘intentionally homeless’ and discharge them from the housing list.

He said:

“As it stands, this offer is unacceptable. Barnet Homes are pressuring me and stressing me out to accept it, but without the specified firm commitments to renovate the building, it is not suitable for my needs. Even with renovations, it is still out of the borough and miles away from my family, friends and doctors. The house is three floors and they expect me to leave my five year old daughter on the third floor which I cannot access, either in case of an emergency, or just to put her to bed at night.”

Mostafa wants to accept the house, after three years of anger and indignity from the council, but wants to be sure they have committed to the changes he needs to be able to live with reasonable independence with his family.

Join us on Monday (Sept 7), 1pm at Barnet Homes (1255 High Road, Whetstone, N20), to make sure Mostafa gets the home – and the renovations – he needs!

Video by http://www.facebook.com/inmywaytobefree

You win some, you lose some

Our community house is now facing imminent eviction, we shut down Barnet Homes for 2 hours, a judge told Barnet Council that they can’t use high court bailiffs against Mostafa, and we were told that ‘no county court bailiffs will touch Sweets Way with a barge pole’!

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COMMUNITY HOUSE FACING EVICTION
Thursday began with an early start, prepping for and heading to the courts in Finchley Central in the rain. Our five-month old community occupation was up against a possession order. We knew there was precious little legal defence for our presence in the house, since most judges don’t seem as impressed as us that we have used our occupation to reinforce a powerful community in the face of deliberate attempts to destroy it, but we had to give it a go.

Unsurprisingly, we lost. Quickly. And the judge accepted the claimant’s assertion that High Court (not County Court) bailiffs would be required to remove us, since, according to the claimant’s barrister, ‘no county court bailiffs will touch Sweets Way with a barge pole.’ This comment was probably the only silver lining of a pretty bleak morning, and seems to be an indication that we’re doing something right. We assume all the county court bailiffs in London are taking a principled stand in solidarity with our struggle for housing justice by refusing to evict us.

WE SHUT DOWN BARNET HOMES!
IMG_20150827_124448From the courts, we went to Barnet Homes to protest the treatment Mostafa and his family have faced, and to make a series of demands that Barnet Homes needs to meet immediately to address the family’s needs. We shut down the building, at both entrances at several points over a two or three hour period, making crystal clear that if they continue to fail Mostafa and so many others, we will continue to make business-as-usual impossible for them.

MOSTAFA’S TEMPORARY COURTROOM VICTORY
Then, just as we were leaving, we heard from Mostafa, who had spent the morning at the Royal Courts of Justice, applying for a stay of execution on Barnet Council’s decision to allow High Court bailiffs to evict him without offering a time and date. What we all thought would have been a bureaucratic formality, turned out to be a major victory for the family and the campaign. Mostafa saw a judge, who was able to see Barnet’s utter lack of sensitivity over his needs as a person with disabilities and made clear that the Council would need to immediately cease any pending High Court bailiff actions and find a date to have a full and proper hearing to justify why they think they needed to do so in the first place.

This means that there will be at least weeks, possibly months, before the family have to leave their home, if Barnet continues to fail to offer them a suitable alternative. It also mean Mostafa will finally get a day in court to explain why he feels a High Court bailiff eviction is entirely unfair and disproportionate to the situation, after the decision to use High Court bailiffs against him was taken in secret, without his knowledge.

For once in the campaign, the justice system actually ruled on the side of justice! We won’t get too used to this, but it certainly helped balance out the legal ruling against our community home.

WE NEED REINFORCEMENTS
For the immediate future, we need people who are able to come stay the night at 76 Oakleigh Road North, to be able to help defend this crucial pocket of community strength we’ve held onto since Annington began evicting families from the estate.

If you think you can come along, please drop us an email on: sweetswayresists[AT]gmail.com

THURSDAY! Two key ways to defend Sweets Way

We’re fighting in court for our community house at 9am, then doing a lunchtime protest at Barnet Homes to demand decent accommodation for Mostafa and the last family left on Sweets Way. CAN YOU JOIN US?

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KEY INFORMATION FOR THURSDAY, AUGUST 27:

Sweets Way Resists courtroom solidarity
9am – 12pm
St Marys Court
Regents Park Road, N3
Near Finchley Central tube (Northern Line)

Barnet Homes Lunchtime Protest: Give Mostafa a home!
12:30pm – 2:00pm
Barnet House
1255 High Road, N20
Near Totteridge and Whetstone tube (Northern Line)

Two weeks ago we got notice that after five months in our second occupation house, we are going to have to go to court to defend our protest there. After months of bungling between Annington and the Ministry of Defence as to who is responsible for us being there, the MoD apparently agreed to take us to court over a home that Annington owns but lets back to the Ministry.

The community house at 76 Oakleigh Road North is our base of operations. We’re fully aware that the law will always defend private property rights over our rights to protest and to homes, but we need a strong showing outside and inside the courts to highlight that the law has positioned itself on the wrong side of justice.

CAN YOU JOIN US AT THE COURTS AT 9:00am?

After the courts, whatever the verdict, we will be marching on Barnet Homes, across the road from Sweets Way, to demand that Mostafa and his family – who have been barricaded into their home for over two weeks, bravely resisting their eviction – are properly rehoused.

Mostafa uses a wheelchair, following a spinal injury incurred working as a carer for the elderly three years ago, and has been bounced between inappropriate temporary accommodation by Barnet Homes ever since.

Just today (Wednesday), Barnet Homes made Mostafa an offer of a multi-level house in Enfield, miles away from his hospital appointments. It was also a 4 bedroom property (the family only needs 3 bedrooms) so will inevitably be well beyond their price range, given what housing benefit is allowed to pay. So in essence, this is a non-offer, designed to let Barnet Homes tell the media tomorrow as we protest outside their offices, that they have carried out their duty to the family, and that they must leave Sweets Way immediately.

This is of course utter bollocks. For years Barnet have had information about Mostafa’s health needs, yet they made this ‘offer’ a day before we are due to protest at their offices. We once again make the following demands of Barnet:

  • Provide SUITABLE housing for the family, based on the needs
  • Immediately reclassify Mostafa from Band Three to Band One housing priority, based on the provided information about his health needs, his children’s needs and the ongoing cumulative impacts of his mistreatment by the Council
  • STOP the current high court bailiff eviction process until Mostafa has been moved into SUITABLE alternative housing
  • Adhere to the LAW to assess Mostafa and others like him, who are at risk of homelessness, BEFORE they are made homeless
  • STOP the sell-off/give-away of public housing stock, and the approval of home demolitions, until the families of Barnet are properly served by Barnet’s social housing provision.

We would also like to clarify that the family have NOT given Barnet Homes permission to discuss details of their case with the media, though they have done just that, breaching the family’s right to privacy.

Because of the horrible treatment they’ve received, and the lack of alternatives made available to them, the family have vowed not to leave 46 Sweets Way until they are offered something that meets Mostafa’s needs. They have been bravely resisting eviction with the help of dozens of supporters for over two weeks since High Court bailiffs were first sent round to chuck the family out on August 10, but were sent away by our resistance.

JOIN US AT BARNET HOMES FROM 12:30 – 2:00pm TO MAKE SURE BARNET HOMES FEELS THE PRESSURE OVER THE LUNCH BREAK.

YOU CAN ALSO TWEET @BARNETHOMES OR WRITE ON THE COUNCIL’S FACEBOOK WALL TO TELL THEM TO LIVE UP TO THEIR RESPONSIBILITIES TO THE FAMILY.

 

NEWS: Jennifer moved into a new flat this week!

Photo by Jen Wilton (@GuerillaGrrl)

Photo by Jen Wilton (@GuerillaGrrl)

This week Jennifer – the former Sweets Way mum we organised around last month – and her two boys moved into a lovely new build flat, near her work and the boys’ school. They will be the first family to live in the housing association new build, with social levels of rent, and a fairly secure tenancy. The flat is spacious, the price is right and the location is good, even if it is just outside of the borough.

This is more than any other family from Sweets Way has been able to say so far, and Jennifer, having been through so much already, is in equal parts thrilled and relieved.

This week, she went from being one of the people treated worst by Barnet Council, to having the best living arrangements of any former Sweets Way residents. After all she’s been through, everyone in the campaign is incredibly happy for her and glad she will be able to return to a life less shaped by inconvenience, insecurity, and fear.

However, we also need to be clear: Barnet Council and Barnet Homes failed Jennifer, repeatedly – even up to the previous Friday when they had another opportunity to support her when she declared herself homeless, and was rejected. Even just this past week when an email from Barnet Homes arrived reiterating their initial decisions, and arguing that Jennifer had not provided enough evidence of threat of domestic violence, and that threats online were not dependent on where she was living, and were thus inconsequential!

The institutions that were meant to support Jennifer failed abjectly, just as they have so many others from the estate and beyond. Particularly given the violence Jennifer had experienced, the failure of the council was particularly stark.

What succeeded in getting Jennifer a good place to live was the proactive good will of Alison Cornelius, Barnet Councillor and wife of Richard Cornelius, the leader of Barnet Council. Alison found the flat, arranged the details and went with Jennifer to sign the paperwork.

We were all amazed by the lengths she went to support her. This was clearly well above-and-beyond her duties as a member of Council, and has made an immeasurable difference in Jennifer’s life.

However, Alison Cornelius, no matter how kind a person, is not able to solve the housing crisis at Sweets Way, or across Barnet, through acts of charitable kindness alone.

This is because there are too many people, facing too many housing problems. Therefore, even with the best intent, the solution needs to be collective, not individual. Otherwise, we are left with a system in which those have been able to connect personally with those with more money and influence are more able to get the homes that they need. Everyone else still suffers. And there are a lot of us still suffering because of the Council’s neglectful decision to approve the demolition of Sweets Way at a time where the borough constantly reminds us that there is a shortage of affordable housing.

That said, we are very appreciative of the efforts Alison made after we had gone to great lengths to highlight the importance of Jennifer’s situation. Now Jennifer is settling in to her new home and that’s good news for all of us. We just feel there is a great need to change the policies and practices that led to a situation where Alison Cornelius needed to step up in this way at all. Jennifer’s situation should never have reached the point it did. Barnet had chance-after-chance to do the right thing, and refused. That it did is an indication that something is fundamentally broken in Barnet’s housing system, and has yet to be repaired.

We are writing this to be clear – we will continue to campaign to make sure homes are available to those who need them in Barnet. We are incredibly appreciative of the lengths Alison Cornelius has gone to for Jennifer, and out of that same sense of empathy and compassion that led her to take the steps she did, we will continue to campaign to ensure that no one else is ever left in the terrifying position that Barnet Council left Jennifer in.

Barnet Council hits a new low as Jennifer is set to be made homeless

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Domestic violence vigil at the front of Barnet Homes

Today Barnet Homes and Barnet Council acted with utter contempt for ex-Sweets Way resident and domestic violence survivor, Jennifer, telling them they will not offer her any support, and leaving her with a letter suggesting she contact Shelter and find her own solicitor before she becomes homeless on the 2nd of June.

This is truly disgusting and an absolute lack of respect for both Jennifer’s circumstances and for the rules of local government in these situations.

Following the meeting, we blockaded the front of the Barnet Homes office for several hours in protest, and left candles (pictured above) in memory of the many women who have lost their lives to domestic violence.

Barnet completely denied any wrong doing, refusing to address the many specific issues we raised with them, in previous letters and in person. The Barnet Homes’ website released a strongly-worded, but largely empty statement about not tolerating domestic violence. The statement also said “it is essential that we are provided with the evidence in support of domestic violence claims”, a practice that raises major concerns, given the sensitive nature of the issues, and in Jennifer’s case, ignores the irrefutable evidence previously provided.

At this stage, Jennifer and her children will become homeless because she refused to live in fear of abuse. And responsibility for this lies squarely on the shoulders of Barnet Council and Barnet Homes. We will continue to bring this story to light, until justice is done.

We will be taking legal action immediately and appreciate any support from housing solicitors that are willing and able to work for free. The way Jennifer has been treated is a travesty; we are asking for the support of solicitors or barristers who are as committed as we are to preventing local authorities from taking such inhumane actions in the future.

If you think you might be able to help, please email us at sweetswayresists@gmail.com

It would be a lie to say we are not all deeply saddened by today’s result, but our resolve to fight these injustices is only reaffirmed by the Council’s disregard and neglect for one of their own residents. Join us to help make days like today a relic of the past. Our collective strength is infinite. We will see each other through this and rebuild the Sweets Way community that Barnet and Annington seem so intent on destroying.

Come to our weekly Saturday street stall in front of the Whetstone Waitrose, 12-2pm, or come along to our next public meeting on Tuesday, 6pm, at the community house, 76 Oakleigh Road North, to get involved.

UPDATE: House Jennifer NOW!

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So since Wednesday’s blog became the most-ever shared post on our site, by a factor of at least double, Barnet Homes have slightly changed their tune with Jennifer. Unfortunately, rather than admit that they had been caught out neglecting their duties under the Homelessness Act 2002, they tried to delay Jennifer’s meeting this morning, telling her they wouldn’t be able to tell her anything new, until she had submitted more ‘evidence’ of domestic violence. Along with this claim, they offered to keep her housed for a few more weeks, just long enough, they probably reckoned, for all the outrage and Tweets and letters to MPs and Councillors to die down.

But Jennifer won’t accept that. We know that Barnet have neglected their duties as a local authority, and have reinforced that neglect with each letter they have sent Jennifer since late January, upholding their initial decision.

Barnet Homes have police records of physical violence and statements of threatened violence acknowledged in their letters, so requiring further information from Jennifer is simply a delay tactic. It is also out-of-line with local government guidance, which rightly suggests that forcing a survivor to repeatedly dig up old trauma is unfair and abusive in itself and should not be the approach of a local authority.

We have replied to this latest letter with point-by-point citations of the relevant clauses of the 2002 Homelessness Act’s Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities, highlighting the many ways in which Barnet has failed to live up to its statutory duties to Jennifer and her children.

When we arrive at Barnet Homes this morning for a silent vigil for all the women in the UK who have been killed by domestic violence in the past year, we expect Barnet Homes to once again accept their responsibility to support Jennifer into safe and appropriate accommodation in the area, where she is able to find community support and live free of fear.

We will not be dismissed. There is absolutely no justification for a situation in which a domestic violence survivor should be forced to choose between a fear of future violence, and a fear of homelessness. Yet this is the position Jennifer has been forced into, and we need a strong presence outside Barnet Homes to make perfectly clear that this is completely unacceptable.

We hope to see you there. Please bring candles and stories you are comfortable to share with others. Together we are strong!

JOIN THE FACEBOOK EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/668825379890589/

TWEET BARNET COUNCIL NOW: http://bit.ly/1ejnUSK

TAKE ACTION: Living in fear of violence is not ‘suitable’ for a family!

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!

A letter by one of Jennifer's sons.

A letter by one of Jennifer’s sons.

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.

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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
theresa@theresavilliers.co.uk 

Councillor Richard Cornelius
0208 359 2059
cllr.r.cornelius@barnet.gov.uk


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.

Thank you,

A concerned constituent