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Thursday, 6 October 2011


I know I've been writing about council quite a lot already, but in this post I'll explain all the hows and whys, our situation and how I've been treated.

Getting on to the council's housing list is only easy on paper, but there is still a point in your life when you have to think about it. Mainly cause you can end up renting a 2 bedroom flat for let's say £300-400/month with them, or for about £600/month with Housing Association (They work in corporation with the council.) instead of £900-1,000+/month which you'd pay to a private landlord.
The process is to fill in an application form and provide all the necessary documents, for example IDs, proof of address, proof of income and many more.
Then they have to check all your documents in about 2 months, whether they are real or fake. When they accept them, your case is passed to an officer, the person who deals with you from then on.
When that's done, they get in touch with you and send a council visitor out, who checks the condition you are living in and why isn't it acceptable for you any longer.
Then the visitor puts all your information in the system, which the council has to check and make a decision about how important it must be for you to get things moving; They give you a banding between 1 and 5. This usually takes up to a month.
Band A - Emergency (When you have serious medical illness and/or have to be rehoused immediately cause you have a missing wall for example.)
Band B - Urgent (When you live in an overcrowded household and in need of 2 or more bedrooms, have urgent health needs, moving in to smaller homes, involved in domestic violence and so.)
Band C - Priority/Homeless (Single young people leaving sheltered accomodation or care.)
Band D - General (When you live in an overcrowded household but in need of only one extra bedroom and/or have less urgent health needs.)
Band E - Reserve (When you are applying to move here from a different borough.)
When it's all done, you get your personal bidding number with the above banding, and you can start to bid for 2 properties a week. The waiting time depends on how high your priority is, it can take from weeks to months to years.
When your bid is successful someone meets you to show you the property you've bid for, and if you liked it, you can take it, if not, can keep continue bidding until you find something more appropriate.
Here I would like to say, council places might be cheap but they are shitholes. The whole idea behind it is that you are able to save up some money and make the best out of it yourself. Housing Association flats are usually more expensive, but nicer too. Speaking in generality.
The average waiting time for properties:

Studio One Bed Two Bed Three Bed Four Bed + Total
 Band Wait in weeks Wait in weeks Wait in weeks Wait in weeks Wait in weeks No. of Applicants waiting
(Sept 09)
Number of Lettings
Emergency - 26 13 30 74 9 24
Urgent - 52 66 75 157 1070 671
Priority 51 80 130 180 275 1847 770
General 165 190 - - - 5280 188
Reserve - 138 - - - 7482 12
Lettings Total 15688 1665

So here you can see it takes quite some time. Now my story:
- I applied with the form and all the documents listed, on the 17th of May. After calling them for about 3 months and they were still unable to see my folder in their system, I went in to find out what's wrong. Turned out there were a few documents missing which they wouldn't have been able to tell me on the phone... Yeah right. Got that sorted immediately.
- Waited for another month or so just to find out whether or not I'm in the system, or even got accepted. Nothing.
I was hitting up the 4th month of waiting by then, even though it only supposed to take them 2 months to check up on me. I instead had to listen to their excuses about summer holiday and a massive back log. Like I cared.
Being 7 months pregnant, the clock was ticking, and they didn't even make the effort to have a look in my folder, therefor knowing nothing neither about my situation, neither about the fact I exist.
- On the 7th of September I sent my first official complaint against them. In the previous 4 months, I as well had to put up with all Lee's family and family friends being sarcastic about my application, since as the urban legend and all their experiences prove, applying as a single mum gives you more chance to get a place. Apparently.
I still rather stuck to my friend, Tünde's opinion, when she said it can be sorted legally, without any lies being said.
Quickly; There are 4 stages of complaints. Stage 1 to 3 take place in the actual institution on a higher level with each step. Stage 4 is a government matter when they order an official Gestapo next to you for free of charge, to investigate. He helps you and gets you a lawyer and an interpreter if needed if it's a matter of taking the institute to court.
- On the 30th of September I was ready to take my complaint to Stage 2, since I haven't heard from them in that 15 working days they supposed to respond. The complaint team have sent me a reply e-mail saying my letter must've been lost, cause they did send it out on the 9th of September. Yeah right.
The same day I got the unofficial (Meaning; Does not signed.) word document attached, with my unactivated bidding number, and the officer's name and number who deals with my application from then on.
When I called her, she said she already ordered a visitor to come out and check up on us, she can't do no more. I could. Got in touch with the visiting team immediately, and managed to have a visitor for Monday. Things finally seemed to be moving.
- 3rd of October, as her first family of the day and week, the visitor came. A 40-50 year odd African woman, highly unfriendly and unprofessional. The other thing was her English which was beyond hard to understand.
Anyways, she weren't asking much, weren't making many notes, instead fell asleep in our armchair (Snoring!) while waiting for Jackie (Lee's aunt, whom we're living with, and was at work at the time.) to call back.
She then tried to convince me to change my application to 'homeless' so they can put me, Lee and our baby to a hostel if Jackie really wanted us to leave after I gave birth. (It is a good option for those whom really do not have anywhere to go.) I refused to accept it, since we aren't homeless, we have money to pay a council flat's rent and, after all, I most probably already would have had a place to live by now (Technically speaking.) if the council didn't sit on my files quietly for an extra 2-3 months. She said she will transfer her assessment the same day, and if I'm lucky, I might be having my banding and bidding number activated in 2 weeks or a month time. But not to worry, I'll receive a letter about it anyway. Of course I will... If they make the effort to post it.
- Tuesday 4th of October, since the visitor wasn't making many notes the day before, my first thing was to call the council and ask whether she has put my information in the system, so the claim to get my bidding number activated is in progress. She did. Then I again requested to send me e-mails instead of post, but the receptionist couldn't guarantee that so I just left it as it is, thinking I'll be keep calling them anyways from now on, if I needed information.
Later that day I went to see Tünde, who said she reckons I better go in and request a copy of the visitor's assassment, since I have all the rights to see it. It's about me, and my future depends on it. If it didn't cover the truth, I still could request to send someone out again. Also, to ask them about a log book where they register all their incoming and outgoing post, and which all council should have.
- Yesterday 5th of October I started my day at theirs. And what a start of the day, fucking hell!
They didn't know about a mailing log book at the reception, and wanted to send me off somewhere else where they might be registered, so I decided to get over with the assessment madness first. The guys at the reception said the best is to call my officer, since she was the one, who's in my case from head to toe and sees all the little details I might need. She's in, second floor, but her phone was going through straight to voicemail, and I couldn't and wouldn't anyway wanted to walk in to her office without any permission.
I kept calling her from the hall, and when she finally picked it up, most probably had one of the most disturbing phone calls she had to deal with that morning. Can only thank to herself though. I'm not an attention seeker person, especially not in public, but damn, I was standing in the middle of the council's hall, shouting, crying, screaming and cursing on the phone.
First of all, she refused to see me, even though I was in the building.
Second, she said according to the report there is something wrong with my files, and I don't live where I say I do (I have written proof from her manager -as a reply for my complaint- that all my documents are valid, therefor my proof of address too.), she doesn't know what's what and won't even be knowing it for quite some time. (Weeks perhaps.)
Thirdly, technically, they do not have to share any information with me, not even a written assessment about me.
All the bitterness, hormones, stress and insomnia of 4 months have came out of me and landed on her. Listening to her annoying attitude and hearing her getting pissed off didn't help on neither of us, then she told me to call  her manager if I wanted. I said I will, and I'll be sitting in the hall until someone finally sees me face to face, and tells me what the fuck is going on.
The manager wasn't yet in (-'Do you want to leave a voicemail?') so I eventually squelched out to the fresh air with my snotty face, and continued flooding the pavement with my tears, absolutely hopeless. I felt with walking out I've given it up, and lost the battle. Wasn't nice.
Woke Lee up with my calls, he couldn't say much, just to go home, leave a voicemail to the manager, and to try and arrange a meeting with him.
Called Tünde too, she said to do the same, but to send an e-mail instead, cause that's written and at least I'll have a proof of directing all my questions to the right person and it has to be answered, otherwise I can take my complaint to Stage 2 immediately. She also said I'm doing the right thing not to re-apply as a 'homeless'; They are only offering this option, cause that's the easier way for them to deal with my case, and with that they could cover their mistake of neglecting me for months. Not to mention if I keep bugging them they will have enough eventually, and will sort me out, just so I leave them alone.
Peeled myself off of the bench, got on the bus, when my officer called, asking if I was still in the building, cause her manager has arrived. Told her I wasn't, she put me on hold for about a minute or two while she was talking to him, then came back in line and said I shall be receiving a letter (-'Don't you understand I don't receive your bloody letters?') on Thursday, if I didn't, I can go in on Friday to see her and she'll go through with me about the bidding policy, and I'll be able to bid for properties. From Friday. This week. From tomorrow, yes.
Now now... I'm guessing the manager is on some serious salary and scared of losing his job, which would probably happen if I sent my complaint above him. Lee says, he reckons the fella got laid and was in a good mood. Either way, so far so good.
Again, how absurd the entire situation is?! I went in just to have a look into my assessment, and I ended up getting almost 5 months worth of shit sorted in an hour. I know it's not entirely my victory, more likely the cracks in their working system, and the fact they probably have so much to hide from me, but as soon as from tomorrow it won't anymore be my problem, hopefully.
No letter today though, so I might be having another round the morning, but this time I'll be bringing Lee with me too to keep me calm. Also, mark my words, if they put us in a low band (Lower than Band B.) I will be complaining my ass off until I get a place, without warning, being patient, or wasting more tears on them.
All in all, I have to admit I'm very proud of myself. Even if it took another year to find the place for us (It won't be that long, I feel it.) I know I've done everything I could for it, I gave my hardest so far, and will put all my energy in that flat to make it ours.
I will have the perfect little home for my perfect little family.

'After all you put me through
You'd think I'd despise you
But in the end I wanna thank you
'Cause you made me that much stronger

'Cause if it wasn't for all that you tried to do
I wouldn't know just how capable I am to pull through
So I wanna say thank you

'Cause it makes me that much stronger
Makes me work a little bit harder
It makes me that much wiser
So thanks for making me a fighter

Made me learn a little bit faster
Made my skin a little bit thicker
Makes me that much smarter
So thanks for making me a fighter'

Saturday, 8 October 2011 11:38
We went in yesterday, got our bidding number activated on Band D - General, as applying and in need of a one bedroom flat, which we started to bid for immediately. Mainly just to have a bidding record in their system. (By law, every person in the household has to have their own room. A couple classes as 'one person', and and infant until the age of 7 (!) classes as 'half a person' and can live and sleep in the same room with it's parents. Therefor, if we did get a one bedroom place now, the mutual exchange could take up to 6-7 years, which would be highly uncomfortable for all of us. That's why -besides the waiting time- we don't even take the bidding on Band D - General too serious.)
When our little girl gets here, we have to go back with her full birth certificate and all the documents proving we're getting benefits for and because of her. Then so we will automatically (Let's wait and see.) will be put in Band B - Urgent, as applying for a two bedroom place. That's where the reality and the luck of bidding starts, and can take up to a year til we get to move somewhere.
Why?! Cause until then, for the council Lileeva technically does not yet exist.
Let me leave the above without comment.

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