From Hillsborough to Hillingdon in 24 hours. Here we go.
On Tuesday, Mark Neary, Father of Steven Neary, whose battles with the rotten borough of Hillingdon I have documented many times, HERE and HERE and HERE, had an interview with the Housing Officer of Hillingdon. He needed to do so for several reasons.
Mark is a highly specialised counsellor for men with emotional problems. The agency that he worked for has stopped receiving the full funding that paid his wages. Rather than leave his clients in the lurch, Mark became self-employed a few months ago, and although he has retained all his clients, it has meant extra expenditure – premises etc, that has left him struggling financially. Please remember that Mark works in addition to being Steven’s main carer and fighting the lengthy legal battles on his behalf. I truly don’t know how he does it.
Mark’s wife is now a very sick lady. Mark had to choose between caring for her or caring for his son. Hence he left his wife in the capable hands of her Doctor and medical staff, and moved to new accommodation with Steven three years ago. It was Solomon’s choice, he could not care for both, and definitely not in the same premises. Not surprisingly, he still cares very deeply about his ex-wife and her welfare.
Over the past three years, the rent of his and Steven’s new accommodation has increased to £950 a month. That is £51 a month above the present ‘cap’. Originally the Housing Benefit covered 2/3 of the rent and Mark paid the balance out of his wages. Recently, only 1/3 of the rent has been covered by Steven’s housing benefit, leaving Mark to find around £650 a month. He has been struggling to do so. Hence the application for ‘extra discretional funding’.
Surprise! Although the regulations for additional discretionary funding have not changed over the past three years, the Housing Officer announced ‘that they had decided to take a fresh look at the regulations’ and have now decided that since Mark has a potential half interest in his ex-marital home, he is not entitled to any assistance. He would have to make his sick wife homeless and sell the house!
This is obviously out of the question, and I very much doubt that there is a judge in the land who would force a sale on his sick wife under the circumstances, but it matters not a jot that this wouldn’t happen – for Hillingdon were taking into account that ‘it could‘.
Surely Steven has some entitlement in his own right? Indeed he does. He is entitled to Independent Living payments. It could even potentially pay the full rent of the house he is in now. The sting is coming…Mark could not then live in the house, it would no longer qualify as ‘independent living’. The Housing Officer maintained a zen like expression. Not a flicker of a smile. Game set and match to Hillingdon.
For Hillingdon know perfectly well that Steven parted from Mark becomes an individual displaying ’challenging behaviour’. Such challenging behaviour would not last five minutes in an ‘independant placement’, and Steven would quickly be on his way back to the ‘Positive Behaviour Unit’ that Mark has spent a year fighting to get him out of. This time it would not be possible to argue that it was not in Steven’s ‘best interests’ to be parted from Mark – since Mark, a single man without dependents would have become intentionally homeless and thus not entitled to any housing benefit.
Mark cannot work any extra hours to cover the increased rent because by mysterious circumstances, on Monday, Mark had his FACE interview to decide what support he was entitled to for caring for Steven. Under the new FACE regulations, they cannot take into account the need for extra support as a result of challenging behaviour; the need for respite; or the need and provision of transport. The very things that Steven’s care package relies on. Without those items taken into account it is almost certain that Steven’s care package will be slashed. Without the support of carers, Mark is limited in the time he can work.
I truly do not know how long Mark can continue to fight for the right to care for his son in the face of Hillingdon’s obsessive desire to get their own way. They have been thwarted and bitterly criticised by a High Court judge, ordered to pay Steven (not Mark, the money will be in the Court of Protection) £35,000 plus extensive legal fees for illegally detaining Steven and parting him from his Father – yet still they dream up new ways to achieve their chosen outcome.
Once they have successfully parted Steven from his Father through the housing benefit route, they will be able to do what they want. They will have succeeded in removing the powerful argument upheld by the High Court that it was in Steven’s best interests to live with his Father.
Or Mark could throw his sick wife out onto the street.
What would you do?