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Cambridge House wins Sports Development Award at London Youth Awards!

Sensational Sports, London Youth Awards, June Lois, Rob Anderson, Chris Fairley, Rachel Zipfel

June holding her award with Cambridge House colleagues at the London Youth Awards in March 2018

We’re thrilled to announce that Cambridge House’s SENsational Sports team won the Sports Development Award at the London Youth Awards! Under the exceptional leadership of June Lois, a Cambridge House veteran, our SENSports team enable young people with profound and multiple learning and/or physical disabilities to get active, improve muscle tone and experience weightlessness.

In a fantastic ceremony at Channel 4’s headquarters – which saw Cambridge House share a stage with talented young dancers, comedians and campaigners – June accepted a thoroughly-earned trophy presented by our friends at the Jack Petchey Foundation. Our SENsports team are going from strength to strength, and we’re immensely proud of the innovative and inspirational work they do. 

Access sport and activity is key to everyone’s psychological health and emotional well-being, no matter your ability. For over two years, our talented and dedicated SENSports team have provided therapeutic sports activities to 11-25 year-olds with profound and multiple learning and physical disabilities, including our Hydrotherapy and Rebound Therapy sessions. The sessions enable some of the most marginalised and least active young people in Southwark to access fun and regular activities that are tailored to the physical and emotional needs of each individual.

Through consistent, personalised support in a safe space, our participants learn new skills, gain confidence, build relationships and improve their health and emotional wellbeing. Our SENSports team go above and beyond in inspiring and supporting marginalised young people to get active, and it’s great to see them recognised for their work.

 

 

How did the Government wrongly cancel an epileptic woman’s benefits three times, nearly making her homeless?

The government needs to look seriously at restoring legal aid for early intervention welfare benefits work or people like Mrs J will end up losing their homes.

cambridge house welfare benefits, cambridge house law centre, cambridge house legal advice

Cambridge House solicitor Serdar Celebi took on Mrs J’s case and helped clear her rent arrears and restore her benefit.

Mrs J is a council tenant who suffers from epilepsy and a blood clot on the brain which causes her to have seizures. Errors in her Housing Benefit (which continued once she transferred to Universal Credit) resulted in her getting behind on rent. The Department for Work and Pensions then (wrongly) cancelled her benefits on the grounds that as she wasn’t entitled to them as a Brazilian national. With her benefits cancelled, her local authority landlord moved to evict her.

On the morning of her eviction hearing, Mrs J suffered multiple seizures, preventing her from getting to court. The hearing went on without her and the judge granted the possession order to the local authority, meaning they could evict her.

Faced with losing her home, Mrs J sought support from Cambridge House’s Law Centre. One of our solicitors represented her, arguing that her benefits had been wrongly withdrawn and that she remained entitled to support as a family member of a person with a right to reside in the UK (her husband, from whom she had separated). Our solicitor also highlighted that the local authority had neglected repairs to her home and that she had a potential claim for compensation against them.

This was a complete success. The local authority agreed to withdraw the possession order, pay compensation for the repair problems, and cover her legal costs. At the same time, Mrs J’s Housing Benefit claim was backdated and she won her Universal Credit appeal, clearing her rent arrears.

Sadly, this wasn’t the end of Mrs J’s ordeal. Despite winning her appeal at a tribunal hearing, the DWP again suspended her Universal Credit on faulty grounds. Cambridge House had to send a letter threatening Judicial Review proceedings before they would concede. However, as soon as her benefits re-commenced, the DWP withdrew them again, once more on faulty grounds. Though this time, the DWP conceded without the need for a hearing, Mrs J still needed solicitor support to put things right.

In the end, Mrs J’s benefits were cancelled 3 times in a row, each time in error. This, combined with rent arrears that were also not her fault, nearly resulted in her homelessness. The Cambridge House Law Centre solicitor who took Mrs J’s case, Serdar Celebi, explains what this means:

‘I think the main lesson from this case is that social security law is very complex and without representation Mrs J may have now been homeless due to rent arrears which had accrued due to no fault of her own. She had legal aid for the possession claim and proposed judicial review but the two tribunal appeals were done under other funding as legal aid was removed for such cases in 2013.

‘The government needs to look again urgently at restoring legal aid for early intervention work in relation to benefits and for tribunal cases. If Mrs J had not been able to find a law centre with alternative funding she may have had to deal with the complex tribunal proceedings herself. Mrs J showed tremendous resolve and patience despite the stress she was under.’

Reimagining Rent: Safer Renting Partners with the Young Foundation

We’re delighted to announce our partnership with the Young Foundation as they launch the Reimagining Rent programme, working with innovative campaigns that are tackling the issues created by the private renting crisis. One of these innovations is the approach of our very own Safer Renting programme, which works to create a better private rented sector for tenants and drive slum landlords out of business by designing and supporting pathways out of slum rentals, providing advocacy in action, and influencing social policy.

Safer Renting works outside of the areas covered by mainstream housing organisations, being one of the first programmes to address the emerging areas of housing stress in outer London, where people’s need for housing is being exploited both legally and illegally. Driven by the expertise of our team, Safer Renting’s innovative approach is led by nationally-regarded experts in private housing policy and practice who bring decades of local authority and advice sector experience. We engage the people least likely to be reached by generic housing advice services – people with complex barriers to help, who have issues accessing legal-aided support and won’t claim benefits. Our targeted approach gathers intelligence on where London’s most vulnerable tenants live, and enables us to reach those who are least likely to know their rights or access advice. A new, effective model that will be expanding nationally soon, Safer Renting fits perfectly with the innovative campaigns that are launching Reimagining Rent.

Roz Spencer, Safer Renting’s Project Director, said:

“Working on a start-up project in a very challenging area can often feel a lonely place. It’s also vital to us to know we’re not only helping people being exploited by slum landlords, but that we are actually contributing in the long term to solving the root problems. The Young Foundation team bring buckets of enthusiasm as well as depth and breadth of knowledge and wisdom. They are the difference that makes the difference.”

Funded by the Nationwide Foundation, Reimagining Rent is a unique housing innovation problem that the private rented sector desperately needs. Nearly a third of rented homes fail to meet basic decency standards; eviction from private tenancy accounts for 78% of the rise in homelessness since 2011 and is now the single biggest cause of homelessness; and the number of children in poverty in private rented accommodation has tripled in the last decade, overtaking social housing as the tenure where children are most likely to grow up in poverty. Safer Renting and Reimagining Rent is utilising the Young Foundation’s innovation development expertise and Cambridge House’s housing experience to make renting fairer, kinder and safer. Working to strengthen Safer Renting’s business model, impact and potential to scale, we’re excited to see where our partnership with Reimagining Rent takes us.

The closure of Lambeth County Court has become a dangerous farce

Credit to secretlondon123. Used under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Credit to secretlondon123.

Lambeth County Court,  one of the busiest housing court in the country, was due to close last week as part of the Ministry of Justice’s court closure programme. Late last Friday, our solicitors were informed that the Court was staying open for at least another month; the court staff had only found out that morning. The chaos around the Court is putting families at risk of homelessness and denying them access to justice.

When the plan to close Lambeth County Court was first announced, Cambridge House along with Southwark and Lambeth Law Centres advocated against the decision to close the court, highlighting the substantial barriers to justice that closing the court would create for poorer clients across South London. Under the proposed plans, court users will be expected to travel much further to attend and at considerable cost; for example, a person in South Norwood may have to travel to Old Street, a £10 return. A single person’s basic Universal Credit allowance is £79 per week; attending a hearing then could consume more than 10% of their weekly budget. The decision appears to be administratively driven and with little thought given to users of the court, especially those vulnerable clients most in need of accessible justice.

With this latest twist, the closure of the court has descended from a short sighted cost-cutting exercise to dangerous farce. We have seen many different letters relating to court hearings, all citing different venues. These cases are not trivial – vulnerable people with low incomes attending court to try and keep a roof over the heads, sometimes against unscrupulous or negligent landlords. Thanks to this confusion, there can be no doubt that there will be more evictions and more people will become homeless. People will attend the wrong court, arrive late or not attend at all, thanks to the cost, because they can’t get time off work, or simply because they’ve given up hope. Some will make deals with their landlords to avoid court, which will doubtless to lead to eviction/homelessness in the end.

It is vital that people seek legal advice as soon as they receive any court notification, as Legal Aid is still available for housing possession cases, and that they are able to attend court. We reiterate our response to the closure plans and urge the Ministry of Justice to reconsider the decision to close Lambeth County Court. 

Rebranding and Residency: The Camberwell Incredibles Art Exhibition

One of the oldest arts collectives in Southwark is getting a fresh lick of paint!

19 Plus – Cambridge House’s resident group of learning diverse artists, and one of our longest-standing projects – have been meeting and creating every week for more than a decade.

With an emphasis on clear communication, the project use the arts as a path to self-empowerment, social bonding and exploration. Supporting and encouraging each other’s creative self-expression, the club provide a valued and consistent environment and routine for our members.

This year the club have decided to kick off the new season with some colour, rebranding as the Camberwell Incredibles! Reflecting our members’ specialties in a variety of art forms from paint to sculpture to performance, the new name marks a new year of fun, empowerment and creativity.

The new season is also starting with an exhibition at the art gallery V3, serving as the first show in the gallery’s October residency Great Minds Think Different – a celebration of neurodiversity and artists with learning differences. Their first event as the Camberwell Incredibles, this show is a celebration of the immense and diverse talent of our members, funds raised going towards the service and the creation of a new sensory room for them.

Join us on Thursday 12th October to celebrate the opening, or come check out the work while it’s on show until the 21st! Click HERE to go to the event page

Chief Executive Karin Woodley to speak at School for Social Entrepreneurs Event

This October our Chief Executive will be sharing insights into developing a successful and high-impact social enterprise with grantees of Power to Change, an independent Trust that gives grants and support to locally rooted and socially conscious businesses.

Karin WoodleyWe are very happy to have hosted a number of Power to Change events and seminars. Power to Change provides wide-ranging grant and development support to small and growing social action organisations to enable them to amplify their impact, extend their reach and improve their business structures. Invited to speak by the School for Social Entrepreneurs, Karin will be addressing a small group of grantees to share her expertise and our organisational experience of successful social enterprise and community-based social work.

Local Couple Support Cambridge House!

We’re saying a huge thank you (and congratulations) to Kathryn and Iain, two local residents who are getting married this month and supporting Cambridge House!

camberwell, camberwell charity, charity in camberwell, charity in brixton, wedding donation, support a local charity, how to make a difference locally,

Kathryn and Iain, star Camberwell residents.

They have shown amazing generosity and inspiring commitment to our local community by inviting their wedding guests to donate to our work tackling poverty and social exclusion in Southwark. Showing amazing community spirit, Kathryn and Iain are not only supporting us but are holding the ceremony locally with locally sourced catering and flowers! What stars!

We feel so lucky to have their support, and wish them all the very best for the coming wedding and for their future together. If you’d like to make a donation in support of Kathryn and Ian, you can do it safely and quickly online here: https://www.justgiving.com/cambridgehouse

Cambridge House Law Centre’s successful LGO complaint a victory for both client and community!

We are very proud of our Law Centre and in particular solicitor Sharon Gunard who have had a successful Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) complaint outcome!
 
Miss B is vulnerable and suffers with extreme anxiety and depression. As a result she was treated by the mental health team at the South London & Maudsley Home Treatment Team. Unemployed and with no means of support she applied online for Housing Benefits. However, she was not told that in order to receive financial support she needed to make a claim under the new Universal Credit scheme. As a result,  Miss B was left with significant rent arrears for which the Council tried to evict her. 
 
Our Law Centre supported Miss B to make a complaint to The Local Government Ombudsman. The complaint was a success and the LGO concluded that the Council must do more in future to ensure vulnerable claimants fully understand the changes in relation to Universal Credit. This is particularly important because the maximum period of backdating for Universal Credit is one month which leaves people at risk of being left without income despite being entitled. In addition, they agreed the Council took too long (3 months) to inform the client of the mistake and recommended they ensure they write to those claimants (affected by such significant benefit changes) more quickly to inform them of the correct benefits to claim.
 
Too often, the complexity of the Universal Credit scheme and the staggering waiting times puts people at risk of financial debt, rent arrears and even homelessness. This good LGO complaint outcome is wonderful news, not only for Miss B but it will also have a positive impact for others in the community who might find themselves in a similar position. 

Cambridge House adds voice to calls for government to crack down on rogue landlords

Cambridge House supports Sir Robin Wales’ plea to government to support Newham Council’s bid to continue their scheme which is cracking down on rogue landlords.

Our Safer Renting project sees the human toll of landlord offending through our work on the frontline with London councils’ residential licensing schemes. Families with children are being locked out of their homes and their belongings destroyed, they share toilets, shower and kitchen with complete strangers, and face daily danger from fire, electrocution, cold, damp, and infection from pest infestation.

All of this is heartbreaking to witness: consider also that this abuse doesn’t come cheap. Even rents on such death-trap properties are increasingly beyond the reach of people on average incomes, as more than two-thirds of the Capital is now unaffordable to people on less than £30,000 a year.

This is because, ultimately, landlord offending is about money; people are exploiting the lack of enforcement and high housing demand to extract huge sums in return for dangerous housing that is unfit for human habitation. Our work enables tenants to use the law to protect themselves against illegal eviction and against landlords who don’t repair their properties. But even with our support tenants often suffer because they have no rights against landlords who construct and let out substandard homes like the “beds in sheds” so common in boroughs such as Newham. 

All this could be changed if MPs support Karen Buck MP’s Private Members’ Bill ‘Homes (Fitness for Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards)’ now going back before Parliament. The Bill was shamefully voted down last year because many landlord MPs voting against measures ensuring that privately rented homes are fit for human habitation.

 Karen Buck’s Bill is desperately needed to strengthen tenants’ rights. Supported by increase resources for local authority enforcement, the bill could enable the worst abuse to be stamped out through licensing schemes and services such as Safer Renting that provide tenancy rights advocacy to protect victims and deter landlord offending.

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