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Victory for the Law Centres Network will help Cambridge House prevent homelessness

The High Court’s decision will help Law Centres across the country prevent homelessness


The Law Centres Network (LCN), of which Cambridge House is a proud member, won an important challenge to the Ministry of Justice. The High Court has ruled that the MoJ’s decision – to consolidate the 113 duty desk schemes across England and Wales into just 47 – was “one that no reasonable decision-maker could reach”.

The changes would have severely affected the Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme, the system through which people at risk of losing their home receive legal advice, assistance and advocacy at court. Often marginalised and vulnerable people, the clients of these schemes face eviction and homelessness without court based support.

Consolidating the schemes would have stretched services over significantly larger areas. This would have jeopardised Cambridge House’s ability to be involved in the scheme – rather than have the support and follow upwork on their case dealt with by us, Southwark residents at risk of eviction would instead have to travel to north London for help during times of incredible emotional and financial stress. The MoJ also decided to remove fixed fees for these cases, meaning organisations that wanted to help people facing eviction would have to enter a bidding competition, which could drive down fees and harm service quality.

The Judge upheld the LCN’s claims that the MoJ made these decisions based on questionable, untested assumptions and acted without proper analysis of the decisions’ effects on people who need the service. Cambridge House are happy to see the High Court make the right call, and are ever grateful to have the Law Centres Network fighting for an accessible, fair justice system.

Peckham Cycle Club take on 100-mile cycle challenge for Cambridge House services

Peckham cycling, cycle club, peckham charity, peckham charity fundraiser

Peckham Cycles Club are taking on the RideLondon 100 to raise £10,500 for Cambridge House this July.

Peckham Cycle Club, Peckham’s biggest and most inclusive cycle club, are taking on the RideLondon 100 this summer in aid of Cambridge House.

16 riders will cycle 100 miles through London and Surrey on the 29th July, following the 2012 Olympic route as part of Britain’s biggest cycling festival.

Cambridge House sought out Peckham Cycle Club’s help to respond to some of the major challenges facing the community today, including protecting the rights of Windrush citizens and supporting young people at risk of involvement in violent crime, which has soared this year. Demand for our services have increased as other local centres have closed, such as the Crossways Centre in Peckham which closed in 2015 due to funding cuts. Cambridge House Chief Executive Karin Woodley commented:

“We’ve been a community anchor in Southwark since 1889. We were set up to tackle Victorian levels of poverty, and this year we’ve seen some of the biggest challenges in our history. More and more families are struggling to make ends meet, needing specialist help to avoid homelessness and poverty. Meanwhile budgets for local services are getting thinner – that’s why we’re teaming up with Peckham Cycle Club to raise funds for our frontline services.”

Peckham Cycle Club are kicking off their fundraising campaign with an ambitious goal of £10,500. Alex Denise of Peckham Cycle Club said:

“We felt honoured to be approached by Cambridge House to partner with them to raise money to continue the invaluable work they do with South London’s underprivileged communities. As a club, we feel strongly about supporting our local area in offering services that uplift and support those that need it.

Our members have pulled their efforts together to help raise £10,500 to aid the work Cambridge House do. Each member has their own personal goal and we have a team JustGiving page tracking our progress.

Every penny pledged will help build a stronger South London community and give hope and opportunity to those what would otherwise be forgotten.”

With 4 weeks to go, Cambridge House and Peckham Cycle Club are looking to local businesses and fellow Southwark residents to help them reach their goal. Check out our progress at

Vital Windrush Day victory for Cambridge House Law Centre

In a fitting coincidence, last month’s Inaugural Windrush Day was marked at Cambridge House by some hard-earned news about a long-standing case, when a vulnerable Law Centre client was granted Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK. Mr L came to England in the early 70s on a UK passport, and worked consistently until the late 00s when his mental health broke down. Over the last decade, immigration rules left him in a situation where he was unable to work, denied benefits and regularly threatened with eviction. Faced with destitution, homelessness and deportation, Mr L’s story drives home the importance of free legal support.

Mr L has been with us since 2009, when he was first threatened with eviction, and his solicitor Stuart Herne worked for many years to keep him housed and protect his right to benefits. His case was then taken on by solicitors Gurminder Birdi and latterly Sharon Gunard, alongside pro-bono barrister Desmond Rutledge and the Migrant Legal Centre.

Last year Mr L’s benefits were stopped and he was faced with eviction again. Through Gurminder and Desmond’s work, he is now receiving Housing Benefit and a backdated payment to clear his rent arrears and keep him in his home. However, he was still left in flux by his immigration status. Gurminder and another Law Centre solicitor, Serdar Celebi, paid him a visit in the hope of convincing him to push for full rights to remain in Britain. Our Law Centre Manager Pamela Robotham arranged for the Migrant Legal Centre to approach the Home Office, and Sharon and Gurminder accompanied him to his first appointment. Mr L’s paranoia means he distrusts everyone apart from our Law Centre staff, particularly Gurminder, and only attended his Home Office appointment once we’d secured permission for her to attend as well.

Mr L has finally been given confirmation of his Indefinite Leave to Remain – with the home office waiving the usual £2,389 fee attached to Indefinite Leave to Remain applications. After a long and trying case, Mr L is staying in his home.  Sharon also got the government to pay Mr L income benefits and backdated payments, and after supporting his immigration case the Migrant Law Centre are helping Mr L go on to apply for full British Citizenship.

However, only the housing work was paid for by Legal Aid, the system that provides legal assistance to those unable to afford representation. Some of the work was funded directly by Southwark Council, and a significant amount was pro-bono. Pamela Robotham, our Law Centre Manager, said:

 “This emphasises the desperate need to restore Legal Aid for welfare benefits work, as there are clearly countless out there who cannot access the few services like ours that have alternative sources of funding or can provide expertise for free. Many have lost their homes by the time they have resolved their immigration problem.

It’s Windrush Day today. Big up to Gurminder and Sharon as without their hard work, expertise and dedication, our client would still be holed up in his flat under his blankets with no money, food, heat, light or hope. Client’s birthday is next week, his immigration status is now secure and he has money to live on. Result!!!”

Cambridge House for the Guardian: Renters must be able to hold private landlords to account

nightmare tenants slum landlords, channel 5, roz spencer, safer renting, safer renting blog, contact, licensing, public sector, housing enforcement,Safer Renting Director Roz Spencer shares insights into London’s broken private rented market and demands proper protections for renters in The Guardian.

Safer Renting creates pathways out of slum rentals for victims of criminal landlords.We influence social policy to create better conditions for renters and drive slum landlords out of business, and it’s great to see our work getting out there.  You can find out more about what we do on our Safer Renting page, and can support our work here.

An excerpt from the article is below, and you can read the full piece here:

“Evictions from a private tenancy are a major part of the 78% rise in homelessness since 2011. So-called allow private landlords to turf tenants out without any reason, and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation attributes 80% of the recent rise in evictions to this process. We must be able to hold landlords to account if we are to lower the numbers of people that end up at local authorities’ doors.

The long awaited Homelessness Reduction Act has come into force, but already stretched local authorities are understandably concerned about the implications of this new duty, which places new legal duties on councils to ensure that anyone who is homeless or at risk of homelessness has access to meaningful help, irrespective of their priority need status.

London councils have stated that even with the £61m additional funding provided nationally over the next three years to help them fulfil this duty, they will be left with a gaping financial black hole to fulfil this obligation.I am all for obliging councils to invest money in preventing homelessness – but we need to address some of the key reasons increasing numbers of people are becoming homeless in the first place.”

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.

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.