Housing director rebuts inaccurate article

By on 26/01/2010 in News, Rebuttals

Elaine ElkingtonElaine Elkington, Strategic Director for Housing and Constituencies today  responsed to an article carried in the Birmingham Post (21-27 January edition, page 28) which claimed that 'homeless people were systematically denied emergency housing because of unlawful practices by Birmingham City Council'.

‘Dear Editor

I refer to article 'Homeless denied emergency housing' (page 28) from the Birmingham Post's 21 January edition and the emotive picture which is unrelated to the court case.

Your article suggested homeless people in Birmingham are denied emergency housing but this is simply not true. Mr. Justice Hickinbottom confirmed in his judgment that Birmingham has the heaviest homeless applications workload in the country. In the period January to December 2009 we provided over 3,000 people with emergency accommodation. We have an emergency out-of-hours service for people who face homelessness and are proud of our work, particularly in our cold weather response service activated throughout the recent snowy period.

You correctly state that the Council conceded that errors were made in these cases. We have taken on board this judgment and accept that our system for assessing our duty to provide interim accommodation did not comply with the homelessness legislation. We have revised our procedures accordingly and are monitoring them in practice. There was no question of blaming individual officers as your report incorrectly states.

In relation to the judgment, I would like to clarify the position:-

The unnamed child mentioned in this piece was immediately provided with emergency accommodation following exclusion from the family home. The parents subsequently confirmed that this young person was welcome to return home.  The error was in suggesting that the temporary accommodation be vacated before a homeless decision had been formally made. 

Subsequent to the judgment, Mr. Kelly was determined to be eligible for assistance. He abandoned the temporary accommodation provided to him and he has not requested a review of his situation since that time.

Contrary to the claims that Mr. Mehari had been residing in a “converted” toilet, he, his wife and child were residing in a shared house with the sole use of a spacious  (120+ square foot) double bedroom. Their landlord has stated that they were not forced to leave and the keys to access this accommodation were not taken from them. Alternative permanent accommodation has now been offered to Mr. Mehari and his family.

Your article then goes on to ridicule the fact that a “Green flag” was awarded by the Audit Commission to Birmingham and its partner agencies.  I endorse the comments made by Shelter and their positive stance on homeless prevention which is the foundation of the work of Birmingham's City Housing Partnership.  Your story conveniently links two unrelated stories to paint the bleakest possible picture.  I would like to reassure your readers that the Council and its partners strive to provide the best possible service, in sometimes complex and challenging situations.

Elaine Elkington
Strategic Director for Housing and Constituencies’

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