The range and complexity of our members’ needs is exceptionally diverse and challenging. As such, no week as a social worker at Body & Soul is ever the same. Body & Soul’s Head of Social Work Emile Lopez will be blogging every day over the next five days to provide a snapshot of his week and give some insight into the lives of Body & Soul’s members and our responses to their needs.
I begin my day by chasing a referral made to an outer east London borough’s children’s services for a lady with no recourse to public funds. She has recently been reunited with her daughter and given full custody after her ex-partner abducted their child for over a year. Children’s services are already aware of the family and have previously completed assessments however despite having no income whatsoever and struggling to meet even basic necessities such as food, the local authority claim the family do not require support. After several hours of email exchanges and calls to the team manager, I’m finally able to secure regular supermarket vouchers from the local authority whilst they conduct a core assessment.
Shortly afterwards I receive a distressed phone call from Samantha. Samantha is currently living with her uncle, his partner and their five children. Samantha and her eight month old son are sleeping in her uncle’s living room. Today she has been asked to leave the property with immediate effect. She has already approached her south-east London council but each time she has been prevented from making a homeless application as she has not been resident in the borough for over three years. This is a very narrow definition of ‘local connection’ under the Housing Act and a regular method of gate-keeping homeless applications. This morning Samantha’s housing officer continues to refuse to provide interim accommodation whilst they assess Samantha’s situation. With the help of Shelter’s London Casework service we are able to threaten a Judicial Review. The local authority quickly respond by saying they will accommodate Samantha and her child tomorrow.
I spend the rest of my afternoon making referrals to befriending schemes for a vulnerable adult member, who is unable to leave her house due to unresolved neurological difficulties and finalising appointments for our two pro bono Legal Clinics that are running during adult services tomorrow evening. The Legal Clinic will provide 10 members with free legal advice (and potential representation) on a range of issues covering housing, immigration, medical negligence, debt, family and general law.