Saturday 28 January 2012

Charity battles to stop family being split by Brent Council

This account of the travails of a Brent family on the edge of homelessness has been posted on the website of  Zacchaeus 2001, a London-based charity that seeks justice for debtors. LINK

Although Z2K is neither an immigration or refugee charity, we do often meet migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in desperate need of our help. Below is our Caseworker Yiannis’ account of how he gave Z2K’s trade mark intensive assistance to a family on the verge of homelessness. Unfortunately Brent’s behaviour is all too common among Local Authorities who will try anything to get out of providing assistance to those in need.

Mr and Mrs F was referred to us the day before his eviction, by his MP Glenda Jackson. The family were failed asylum seekers, with two young children. With nowhere to move to, we accompanied them to Brent social services. They said they could only help the children, and the parents would need to live somewhere separately. The parents were very upset when they heard this, and understandably said that that would not be an option. 

Brent then told us the Fs would need to apply for assistance under the National Assistance Act 1948, through the Refugee Council. We went to Brixton, only to be told after a long wait that they need to make a fresh asylum claim before NAS assistance can be offered. With both tenants in tears, we then went back to Brent Council and asked them to house the children and parents together. However they had not changed their positions, they would only house the children, without Mr and Mrs F. 

We asked them to reconsider, as they have a legal duty to do what is in the children’s best interest ( which involves keeping the family together whenever possible). The case was referred to ‘senior management’, only for us to wait until 5pm to be told once again that separating the parents from the children was an option being seriously considered by Brent. The mother of the children, who was already crying, had a minor panic attack, finding it very difficult to breathe or drink water. 

A few minutes later, the social worker from Brent returned and said that Brent had decided to house the whole family in a nearby BnB for one night only, to give them a chance to make a successful application for NAS assistance. No apology or explanation was offered as to why this offer had not been made until so late in the day, and after so much anguish on the part of the parents. 

The next day, as it was clear that NAS assistance would take a week to be sorted out (at least), Brent decided to house them for a further 15 days. We referred them to another organisation which could help with their immigration and NAS applications.

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