Tory Majority Day 13: CFSME As A Medical Priority And Getting A Council Home In London

As if being ‘on the sick’ doesn’t make me a enough of a dirty benefit scrounger, I’m also trying to get council housing. My application is based on medical and economic grounds.

I’m putting forward evidence to prove to my local council that the conditions I live in are negatively impacting on my health. If it works it should be successful in proving that I need to be rehoused in council or housing charity accommodation.

Hang on, did I hear a snigger, an outburst of laughter from you or was that an echo of my own disbelief I hear!

Yeah, Ok, I know. I know there’s a social housing crisis, particularly in London. It tells you how desperate I am that I’ve even started on this path. There’s a glimmer of hope in me that keeps saying:

“Who knows, maybe, just maybe it will work and I’ll not have to spend another winter in this hell hole.”

Would You Do The Mould Patrol Weekly?

Anyone with half a brain cell to rub together can work out that pictures like this one indicates that the home I had to rent in the frantic dash to bring myself under the single person housing benefit cap in London, is unhealthy to live in.

Mould Patrol

The Mould. It grows like a weed.

That amount of mould growing up damp walls and an unheated, freezing cold extension and a kitchen unusable during cooler weather because it has no heating? No sh*t Sherlock.

Still. It could be worse. I could be living in one of the atrocious dank, dripping, sodden and dangerous homes that were covered in the Panorama documentary “The Great Housing Benefit Scandal.” 

On the positive side during summer my flat is quite nice really. It’s light and airy, it has some land attached to it so I can sit outside when it’s sunny and warm.

Warmth is really, really good for my health due to my ME symptoms. Last but not least, it’s mine.

Or at least it’s my name on the lease so I’ve kept some of my independence since I’ve been ill with MECFS.

The fact that my landlord is well known to my local council for being a money grabbing, tenant-hating, bordering on illegal practices business-owner is constantly in the back of my mind.

Bitter? Not only me.

There’s an entire comment stream on a local website from irate tenants about his firm which makes for fascinating reading.

In response in 2014 he changed the company name. Yup. That’ll sort it!

The conversation I had with a Housing Benefit Officer at the Council

“Oh I know him,” said the Scottish man with the bushy beard who wears olive green shirts,” he owns about 60 properties around here. When the crash happened he was in here trying to claim housing benefit because the value of his properties had dipped.”

“Ha!” I burst out laughing,”No way! What happened?”

Scottish man turns away to photocopy my documents and returns to answer my question:

“We all know him very, very well here,” was his reply, “obviously we turned him down.”

There was a look in his eyes as he handed me back the originals that said ‘short shrift’ better than words can.

Dodgy Landlord 

The 18 months I lived in flat 1 – priced under the single person’s London Housing Benefit Cap, taught me a lot about how awful cheap rented housing can be.

I rent this flat for £775.00 PCM.

In the rental market you get what you pay for:

  • It taught me that there’d be no maintenance immediately carried out when you had a fault
  • there’s no proof of where your deposit is placed and you’ll be ignored you when you ask – this is illegal
  • that some of the electrical wiring had “no ring” – I had to ask the electrician what that meant
  • despite it being advertised as a double 1 bedroom flat, you couldn’t fit a double bed in the bedroom and still open the door.

I moved into the current flat, flat 2 after exploring and finding out I had no alternative options for housing. That included being turned away by every lettings agency I approached, every housing association and the Council. The Council told me:

“There’s a long waiting list and we have no preferred landlord housing list, I’m afraid.” What that means is that no landlord wants tenants claiming benefits.

This means that despite my local council’s housing policy saying that they can advise prospective applicants to council housing that they may rent in the private sector, they can’t. They can’t because there are no landlords locally who will accept those tenants.

I rent this flat for £800.00 PCM.

In flat 2 I’ve had:

  • mice in the sewerage pipes
  • more problems with central heating
  • Wiring in a light in the central hallway wired the wrong way round: when someone tried to fix it, it blew.
  • Blinds on the windows, I’ve had to replace them with floor length curtains to keep the cold out
  • the mould problem and
  • a backup of sewerage from the sewer outside into my bath and toilet!
That's backed up sewerage in my bath. Don't even go there.

That’s backed up sewerage left in my bath. Don’t even go there.

The sewer back-up incident took 5 days to clear. Prompt action happened after I called the Council’s Environmental Health team.

I hope you aren’t eating.

None of that list of things that have gone wrong includes the wracking, freezing temperatures in my home. 

It is so cold that it keeps me from being unable to open my curtains for months and months.

The temperatures mean I’d have to run central heating 25 /7 to keep it warm and free from damp. I can’t –  I’m in fuel poverty due to being on ESA.

And guess what? He knew. 

On the day I moved from flat 1 to flat 2, tenants in another property owned by the same landlord bumped into me as I was packing up boxes.

“Where are you going?” they asked.

“Oh, over the road, there..” I pointed round the corner. The woman’s smiling face crumpled and fell.

“Oh no, not that flat?” she pointed to my future front door.

“Yes, that’s the one,” I replied. Then reading her face,”why?”

“It’s a terrible flat, absolutely terrible. It’s so cold that I had to keep the heating on all the time. It’s damp and it’s cold. We rang him and told him we had to move, he had to move us. Afterwards we sent him the heating bill to pay it. It’s a terrible flat!”

And she looked at me with a mixture of compassion and horror.

That's not bath water, it's water from the sewer. I hope you aren't eating!

That’s not bath water, it’s water from the sewer. I hope you aren’t eating!

Options?

Applying for a council home is my last resort. I’ve tried all the others. Despite being someone with a disability and being able to prove medically that my home is negatively affecting my health, I’ve been placed in Band D in terms of priority at the Council.

Band D is the lowest banding you can achieve when applying. That’s the first part of the process. Since then I’ve submitted medical evidence in support of a Medical Priority.

I called the Council today to ask for progress and was told: “he’s on holiday. He’s back on Monday.”

The thing is, I’ve been waiting for an answer for weeks.

Wish you were here ?

Right now I wish you were here to give you an idea of how bad living here is for someone with CFSME, It’s taken chunks out of my health in lesser – during warmer months – and greater – in colder months – amounts since I’ve been living in both flats.

It would make a well person unwell, but I’m unwell and already suffering.

During winter months I don’t even invite people into the flat, the system that I have of keeping the curtains closed all the time, blocking draughts from the extension into the main flat and wearing gloves in the house is too embarrassing.

They’ll find that it only has heating on for an hour a day as well.

Lack of social needs assessment

The NHS CFSME Clinic doesn’t do a social needs assessment so this impact on my health has never been part of the discussion about symptoms or recovery. My GP sees me so quickly that conversation has never taken place either.

Despite having a long term health condition it seems I’ve never been in the right health environment for someone to ask.

What a huge gap in provision for people with CFSME.

As I’m writing this I’m looking at the thrashing trees and sky darkening outside with an approaching rainstorm.

The light from the windows is getting greyer and greyer and the ambient temperature is falling and falling like tight black isobars.

I have to stop writing now to get a large blanket wrapped around me quickly and put some woolly gloves on because my hands are now too cold to write.

And this is May. Imagine what it’s like in Autumn.

© Lindy 2015 

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