Tuesday, 21 September 2010

A blow on the sheltered housing front - the law is an ass

I haven't reported on this much before now, as I did not want to give heart to our enemies, but there has been a setback in the fight to defend sheltered housing wardens. Yvonne Hossacks, the lawyer representing many of the residents battling the loss of their wardens, has been turned down for much of the Legal Aid money used to fight the cases.

This was done on a small technicality. Yvonne appealed but the appeal has been rejected. Many of the residents had written to the authorities to plead for a second chance, but that has been ignored. Here is an extract from one of their petitions:
The residents of rented Sheltered Housing are, by definition of being in rented accommodation, not rich, indeed, it is said, that 75% of them are in receipt of benefits. Apart from their age, average 75, with many in their 80s, it seems discriminatory to reject their applications on the basis of a single fault made by the applying solicitor office in filling in the Legal Aid forms. No human is so perfect [as] not to make typographical mistakes, and you have at your disposal Tippex, copiers, telephones, fax machines and the internet to discuss, and correct, trival errors with their originators.

Your rejection, I believe, fails to take into account Legal Aid is not about whether a dot, or a comma is in the correct place in an application form, but is to do with making possible equality before law, for the less financially able persons in society.

...You will appreciate that this effectively could remove legal protection in this matter, for up to 500,000 people living in Sheltered Housing. The knock on effect is that these people may now become legally 'out of time' to bring their actions and they will have been dealt a disservice.

The situation these residents find themselves in is that Wardens from Sheltered Housing are often withdrawn, or their hours of duty changed, against the wishes of the residents and without the consultation(s) required by Housing Law. (Our national statistics show that 97% of the residents of Sheltered Housing only moved in because 'it had a Warden'). In short it appears to have been foreseen that the elderly could be treated in this way because the Housing Providers had assessed that
they could get away with it, by reason of their victims' age and lack of financial resources and lack of expertise in Housing Law!
Yvonne's view has always been that the legal case is what can win, the political campaign creates a better atmosphere for the legal case to succeed by worrying councils, and giving heart to the residents who are fighting. It seems that the focus must shift to the political campaign now. In that case, gird up your loins, because Barnet, like other councils, will surely shift back on to the front foot in this matter.


Anonymous said...

very disheartening news for our seniors.

Rog T said...

Well it sounds to me as if we'll all have to dig into our pockets a bit.

I don't think there is any alternative