Brighton and Hove City Council: Crackdown On The Vulnerable

ETHRAG Press Release 27th November 2017

Brighton and Hove City Council residents living in temporary accommodation confirm they’re being made homeless and forced to decide whether to sleep rough or move into the private sector.

ethrag-logo-brighton-hove-temporary-accommodationDistressed residents have contacted ETHRAG claiming that Brighton and Hove City Council are breaking the law and removing there housing duty, which councils are required to provide accepted homeless households.

For sometime now the Labour Group have been warning things need to change in Temporary Accommodation, which they blame on government cuts. ETHRAG have been contacted by concerned residents who claim they are victims of lies from bad landlords and the council and are being forced to choose between living on the streets, or being moved into the ever increasingly insecure private housing sector. 

One resident who wishes to remain anonymous has said

I’ve been to the Council and they are not helping me, I’ve been told I’ve got a be out of my accommodation in matter of weeks. I have nowhere to go, the council aren’t helping me,  I ‘am 23 and have depression and anxiety, I’ve got a try find somewhere and fast they say.

The concerned resident also explained:

Brighton Council placed me in long term temporary in 2015 but now I have been told I am being evicted. They have discharged duty of care for me they told me I’ve got a find private.

The minority Labour council led by Warren Morgan recently reported a 1 million pound overspend in temporary accommodation budgets, which is the plausible reason as to why this is happening, but is this right?

Another young mother confirmed:

Brighton Council housing department passed my details to social services because I have two children and they simply said they cant help, and that I need to go private

With rents in Brighton and Hove well above the Local Housing Allowance maximum payment rate, our residents feel like they are being socially cleansed from the city they were born.

Finally another resident contacted us today to confirm:

I’m not sure if you can help me but I’m in temporary accommodation. I received a call from the Housing Acquisitions Team yesterday.

They had called to arrange a meeting between the landlord, a council rep and myself this morning. The call was very vague but basically the council are attempting to make my contract a private one between the landlord and myself. I don’t want this.

I’m now terrified that I’ll become a private tenant and removed from the housing register. I’ve got an appointment at my local MP’s surgery on Monday and I’ve made my mental health team aware. I’ve managed to put the council meeting on hold. Do you know of anyone else who has been in this situation?

ETHRAG have referred residents to the newly Elected Labour MP for Brighton Kemptown Lloyd Russell-Moyle for help. We urge Lloyd and other MPs to stand up for vulnerable constituents and speak out in parliament against these draconian policies, which are leaving our residents at breaking point.

Have You Been Affected By This Issue?

If so we want to hear from you! Right now we know the council are doing this in phases, gradually removing their legal duty to house you, this is potentially putting your household through more upset as the number one reason for homelessness applications is because of private landlords evicting tenants.

We urge you to take a stand and speak out; this is your future and the council are messing with it.

Who are ETHRAG?

ETHRAG (The Emergency And Temporary Accommodation Residents Action Group) represents 4,000 people living in emergency and temporary accommodation in Brighton and Hove.

Formed in 2016 to fight back against cuts, bad landlords and a council-housing department, which is not fit for purpose, we are the UK’s first residents association for people living in Emergency and Temporary Accommodation.

We provide a voice for the vulnerable.

Two Revenge Evictions – Both Victims Shipped Out Of The City To Eastbourne

Last night through ETHRAG I was contacted by a severely upset lady who informed me after an altercation in which she was assaulted at the notorious Percival Terrace emergency accommodation in Brighton and Hove.

The 26 year old who has recently moved back to Brighton and Hove following domestic violence, was provided an interim duty to be housed by Brighton and Hove City Council under homelessness legislation. The individual has various vulnerabilities in relation to the years of abuse she suffered from family members.

This is not the first time, check out this story

Her First Accommodation

Our service user was placed at Percival Terrace, the initial room she was placed in she describes as one of the worst rooms she has stayed in. below is an image of the mattress she was expected to sleep on.

I remind people that council contracts with the providers state that a new mattress is to be provided, her reason to complain to the council is valid.

Dirty Mattress at Percival Terrace
Dirty Mattress in Room 8, we know it was a new mattress before the service user moved in, so we know the provider changed this dirty mattress over before.

The Incident At Percival Terrace

Our service user states that on the communal stairwell she was approached by an older male resident who told her to keep way from two younger residents, our service user states she is a mother figure and wanted to take the young care leavers under her wing so to speak. He then got verbally abusive and she immediately went to the office to report to staff.

Whilst in the office, our service user states that the hatch was open therefore the man saw she was reporting after started hurling abuse at her through the hatch, calling her fat and swearing. Our service user has an eating disorder and is displaying symptoms for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, as a sufferer myself, i am well aware that people can trigger episodes.

Our service user reacted to the comment and left the office and confronted the man in the public hallway, which is covered by CCTV. She defended herself, and the man reacted by aggressively pushing her which hit her in the breast.

The situation then escalated and our service user states at this point she was refused help and that in fact it was tuned on her and the police were allegedly called. Although she never saw them.

Percival Terrace Reaction:

Percival Terrace reacted as they have done multiple times and simply cancelled the room with a reason which was completely one sided. Our service user was given just 24 hours to vacate the room and present to the council.

Angelique the manager for Helgor Trading Ltd said to our service user “my staff are not liars, I trust them 100%”

Back to the council

On Monday 16th Jan our service user went and presented to Brighton and Hove City Council, visibly upset and alone with no support, she felt the council were siding with Percival Terrace, I understand the police were called however they have taken the word of the accommodation provider and not her.

I have concerns around this, we have had a spate of revenge evictions in the city, whereby these providers whom are paid on average over £800 a month per person to house these vulnerable people, on one hand the providers are acting unethically and the council are being forced to clean up the mess, its unacceptable especially when many of the providers have no safeguarding policies in place.

We then accompanied the service user back to the council on the 17th January 2017.

The Meeting at the council 17/01/17:

Myself and Nikkie from ETHRAG went along to support the homeless victim at the council due to her being unsupported and at the mercy of housing staff whom are not listening to her needs. The interview started.

Me: Lets not worry about the issues, she is street homeless she cannot see BHT until tomorrow so lets just take steps to ensure she is housed tonight and not left on the streets.

Me: Under homelessness legislation you have discretionary powers to house.

Nancy BHCC: Please don’t be quoting me legislation, unfortunately we have discharged duty and there was a quite a kick off in here yesterday, i was sitting next door.

Me:  You have discharged the duty and taken the word of a provider who has previously cancelled peoples rooms unethically, is that right?

Nancy BHCC: Yes, we took the other side of the story yesterday and it was decided to cancel the duty.

Me: But you have making a vulnerable young lady street homeless?

Nancy BHCC: You need to talk to the original advisor.

Well that was a complete waste of time, we waited patiently for another Advisor called Ross, Ross listened and went the extra mile to help our service user, even apologising for the traumatic experience our service user had the previous day.

In the meantime I contacted Cllr Lloyd Russell-Moyle, who is the ward councillor which covers Percival Terrace, he listened to our service users side of the story and the actions which were taken by Brighton and Hove City Council and ultimately came to the same conclusion, the duty should not have been discharged like the council initially did, she should have been moved pending an investigation into the revenge eviction / Incident.

Lloyd spend the afternoon talking with Brighton and Hove City Council management, he has issued a statement which I will publish below.

The Result

The council have accepted there was a mistake, however they did issue a warning to the service user, whom has confirmed that she accepted this warning on the basis that when she makes a complaint that as a resolution Brighton and Hove remove this warning and issue an apology.

Sadly due to the limited accommodation an the fact Percival Terrace’s mother company own five buildings in the city meant her options locally were nil, she was moved to a hostel instead in Eastbourne.

Our service user now will be in contact with Brighton Housing Trust who offer a legal help service, this is legal help under the homelessness legislation. They will be challenging the decision to move our service user to Eastbourne because why should a victim be placed miles away when its clear the failure lies with the accommodation provider.

The Lesson To Learnt

I feel the advisor Nancy at BHCC needs retraining, this is not the first incident in which people have felt she is more worried about turning people down than actually finding ways to help them.

Having spent all afternoon and morning in the housing department at Brighton and Hove City Council, I now have a wider awareness on the impact these revenge evictions are having on the council frontline staff, whose hands are sadly tied.

Whilst the council need to do more to stop the providers of emergency accomodation revenge evicting people, not only because its unethical but because the councils resources are limited and this time could have been spent with new homeless applicants who sometimes do not get seen.

If the city had a temporary accommodation board like Manchester and Newcastle, these incidents would turn into positives with new policies in place to protect the vulnerable.

Statements Issued

Cllr Lloyd Russell-Moyle Labour East Brighton statement
Cllr Lloyd Russell-Moyle Labour East Brighton
” I’m happy that we were able to get it right in this instance, when constituents come to Labour Councillors we work hard to ensure that the council is working for them. Housing remains highly underfunded by national government, and there still much more to achieve to abolish homelessness in our city, but as a ward councillor we will contribute to work hard, with Labour’s lead councillors on housing and on homelessness and with council officers to improve and increase accommodation in our city for all”
Sadly because I am banned from contacting Helgor Trading Ltd, I wasn’t able to get a statement from them.
At the time of publishing I am still awaiting a statement from the Housing Spokesperson for the Green Party.