The conference room looked clean, a change from it’s normal state, perhaps the new cleaner is actually doing something unlike the last, or perhaps the Family Department haven’t had a chance to attack yet. Either way I can enjoy stretching out in this chair without worrying about my shoes hitting some food remnant on the floor or the blank forms and papers across the table being sullied by the choice liquid of the last client. Sometimes its good coming early I think to myself.
Damn, have to concentrate …it’s only Monday morning still have all week to go yet. Looking at my notes I can see that my first client is a Ms Christine who is having issues with her temporary accommodation. Without even reading the short summary I can guess what has happened. The local Authority has taken an application from her and has left her in a Bed and Breakfast for a few months sharing facilitates and replying to her chasing calls by saying they are working on it and will get back to her. Make me sometimes think i’m just here to write pre-action letters for clients to push the local Authority in doing their job.
A gentle knock on the door let’s me know she’s here. I get up and let and a slightly frazzled looking Ms Christine in.
“Good morning Ms Christine, come in and take a seat and lets see what we can do for you today”.
She hesitantly walked in and took the seat nearest to the window, furthest away from the ever growing pile of Legal Aid forms that now need filling in.
“so Ms Christine” I said while taking my own, now comfortable seat. “My name is Holmes, I understood you met my colleague a few days ago at our outreach and informed her that you were having a problem with your accommodation given to you by the local council. Do you want to tell me a bit about the situation?”
I notice as she launches into her story while taking off her coat that the speech seemed almost rehearsed, or one that had been repeated one to many times now. I couldn’t help but smile at the client, in what I hoped was a reassuring manner and say
“..let me guess it’s been over 7 months you have been in the bed and breakfast?…and you are sharing a bathroom and kitchen still?”
She nodded with a sense of relief almost flooding her face, “yes exactly that and we are on the third floor which my mother who is with us cannot climb, she cannot have a bath herself, which is made even more harder as it is shared and I find it very hard to bathe her there. I have had to wait until late at night to help bathe her when everyone else is done.”
While scribbling done some brief notes, I ask while already half knowing the answer “have you told your housing officer about the issues your having? or have you considered to let your mother stay with other friends or family?”
I notice before launching into her reply a twinkle in her eye, the one that shows she is close to breaking point “I don’t have any friends or family nearby that can help and I have contacted my Housing Officer over a dozen times, given her all the medical evidence, pictures of the bed bugs but she either is not there or I am told by her that she will look into it but hasn’t got back to me yet….I am tired of it all now”.
Already in my head i’m drafting a pre-action letter as I cannot see an offer letter in the pile of papers the client has brought with her.
Looking at the clock behind the client I notice it’s 10:05 and I know it’s going to be a long day again. “right Ms Christine I just need a few more details…….”
It is unfortunate that despite extra funding and vast resources of a Local Authority, every 3rd case we get through the door is a suitability of temporary / permanent accommodation or more so recently the Local Authority not accounting for medical evidence in providing temporary accommodation which almost always seems to be a Bed and Breakfast.
We have done a small article on suitability with a pre-action letter on grounds of disability but, again this is a rough version we have used and would recommend that you seek legal advice on the matter as facts of each case are different and so therefore should be the pre-action.The case of the long step by Arfan Bhatti