It appears that some of you who read my diary are particularly interested in the situation with my housing.
Since my at-home assessment with Julie, my new disability rights worker, on Tuesday this week I haven’t written more about it.
This was intentional because I was processing a lot of what was said and I also then had to do some things Julie asked me to do, as an outcome of us meeting.
So my week has been busy in a different way and today I’m feeling the all-too-familiar payback as a result.
I thought it’d be really useful to summarise what happened.
What Julie wanted to know
It was a normal conversation, a getting-to-know. This made it easier because in the to and fro of conversation we covered most things about my council house application, my financial set up, my relationship status and most importantly, the condition of my home.
We didn’t say in advance how long the meeting would take but it naturally rounded off after about an hour. At the end I was tired and said that it was a good time to finish because I’d need to rest.
We agreed that we’d concentrate on talking by email because I find phone calls really tiring. Also I’m a writer so I like words on a screen. You mean you hadn’t noticed 😉
Advocacy Service Paperwork
She gave me 3 documents to fill out that were generic documents for the advocacy service. They were short and easy to fill out.
I had to fill them out, scan them and email them over to her. I could have posted them but I’m lucky that I have a scanner and it’s quicker. It also means I can keep a paper trail of copies too.
They forms were:
an assessment / referral form with my details and my next of kin details in it
a confidentiality agreement
a form that says that I’m allowing her to act on my behalf.
This last form is useful because my signature means she can contact people or organisations as my ‘proxy’ i.e. for me.
It might seem like it’s opening a door to everything personal, like my bank account, but giving her proxy access really lessens the load in terms of paperwork, phone calls and conversations in the future. It sounds scary but it’s worth it.
What paperwork she wanted from me
She wanted the above paperwork as soon as possible. She couldn’t start being my advocate without it.
What she wanted me to do about the flat:
Photos taken of the condition of the flat – i.e. the mould
My tenancy agreement
Me to collect together all correspondence with my landlord regarding the condition of my flat
An agreement that I carry out all communication with my landlord via email or letter
If I speak to my landlord I keep it short and write a summary email immediately afterwards
What she wanted from me about me:
Copy of the most recent DWP benefits letter confirming my level of ESA
What we also talked about:
We talked around a lot of issues, including how I cope with my health.
She ‘has a friend with ME’ and so she understood quickly what I meant by housebound, fluctuating illness, tiredness and rest.
“I know this might sound….wrong…but one of the reasons I haven’t thought about many of these things before now is that..well….I think there are people who are more disabled than I am and they are the ones who need the support. Also, it’s part of my character to stand on my own two feet and that’s not such a good thing sometimes.”
That last bit is something I’m working through in counselling too. I’ve had to learn to be unwell. I still don’t know how to ask for help very easily and the thought of not carrying on as an independent woman is alien to me. I’m getting there though!
So this entire assessment was a biggie for a lot of reasons. Some practical, some psychological too.
“What do you need?” she asked me.
I showed her the scar on my finger from where I cut myself because I was tired and had brain fog after cooking. I said that I didn’t know, because I didn’t know what was on offer, what was possible?
“I’ll refer you to social services,” she said.
Recently someone over Twitter suggested that I referred myself to a social worker. The doctor who assessed my council home application on medical grounds also wrote in the response letter, that I should seek support from social services.
It was timely that Julie said she’d refer me.
“What do they do?” I asked.
“A lot of things,” she answered. “I’ll make sure I am here for your assessment too. They might be able to find some funding for you to have some help around your home.”
“Really?” I said – and at this point there were some tears. Ahhh!
“I suppose I could do with some help around my home,” I said, “I mean, the less energy I expend on physical stuff like that, the more I feel well.”
“Tell them that,” she said. “You can choose what to do with that money, it’s up to you. One of your friends could help you and you pay for them. You could have a PA, some people do.”
I felt at this point that the list of options were a bit overwhelming:
“Um. I think someone to help with my shopping would be the most useful thing, and maybe some help around my home.” I said although I’m still not sure I mean that. I was saying something for the sake of saying something.
My flat and the big move
Julie used to be a housing officer in a Citizens Advice Bureau. She did a thorough inspection of my flat and she said that without a doubt in her mind, it was unfit for habitation. She saw things on the outside of it as well that I hadn’t spotted.
She really was the best person possible to come and assess me.
The house move finances
She explained that the council has something called a discretionary housing payment. This will be applied for AFTER I find a new place to live. It will cover the fees and costs of moving, including the months rent in advance and the deposit.
The Social Worker will apply for it on my behalf.
She said she’d refer me to Citizens Advice where a money and benefits specialist will look at my current benefits and work out if there’s anything else I should be getting.
I didn’t know they could do that – did you?
The council home application
She said immediately that there was “no point” in appealing the council home banding decision. She said: “You could take years appealing and it will make no difference at all. Forget it.”
I must admit I was surprised about this, because I’d been working myself up to an appeal. However she knows the situation in the area I live in very well indeed.
I told her the story of how I know someone who had to get their MP involved to get appropriate housing. Her eyes widened with shock.
The next day I sent her a scanned copy of the letter from the council about my medical assessment and decision. I said I’d show her the medical evidence if she needed it, but she didn’t ask, so I didn’t send it.
Housing association housing
She said this was one option I should consider. “Yes but what about them being sold off?” I said.
“Hmmm,” she pursed her lips.”I’ve had a lot of contact with housing associations locally,” she added, “I’ll do some ringing around and see what their referral criteria is.”
At this point my mind was ping-ponging with so many wonderful ideas and options being discussed that I found myself sliding towards brain fog and it was difficult to concentrate.
July 8th emergency budget and housing benefit
“I’m OK about the idea of moving,” I said, “but what about the emergency budget on 8th July? Housing benefit is one of the areas they could cut.”
“There’s no way they could do that,” she replied. “They can’t. So many people would be made homeless they’d have an even bigger mess on their hands.”
“It’s summer,” I said, “this flat is OK during warm weather. There’s time. We’ve got some time. I’d rather know what the emergency budget is before we do anything.”
“OK,”, she said, “but I think we’ll still get going on some of these things.”
“OK, ” I agreed, “It’d be good to get started and it would help my ME symptoms to do things gradually as well.”
Landlords not accepting tenants on benefits
This was something the both of us immediately knew was a problem. She came up with an idea. The idea was that she’d find out which landlords locally accept housing benefit tenants.
She’d then compile a list and we’d approach those first.
Yes. The one who is known for being dodgy.
She wanted to know his name so that she could do some research. We did discuss if it was possible to persuade him to carry out the repairs but I explained that it would do so much damage to my emotional health to have to deal with him – it has in the past – that I simply wanted out.
She agreed. She said: “He’s a bad landlord. You need not to rent from him any longer.”
Nice to have that validation.
However to remove myself from the tenancy agreement I have to follow some legal steps in notifying him of the mould and damp which is why I’m having to log everything and take photos.
Once that process starts, expect some very frazzled and stressed diary entries. 😦
What I’m really worried about is that he’ll then have free access to my home at any time to resolve the problem. I need peace, quiet and rest during my day and so I have to think about what I can do instead.
I haven’t solved this problem yet. Any ideas, let me know.
Close of meeting
At the end I felt that she’d immediately understood where I was at and was also prepared to do what was necessary to help me.
As she left she said: “Don’t worry, we’ll have you out of here by the end of summer.”
Which is bloody amazing 🙂
If anyone wants to ask me any questions about this as I go through it, I’m happy to email anyone about them. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
I will keep a diary too so you’ll be able to read it here too.
© Lindy 2015