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Gatekeeping protest

May 24 2009
The London Coalition Against Poverty writes about its important campaign to halt the abuse Dear Editor,

Despite the ministerial rebuke on the subject three years ago, there seems to have been no let up in the use of 'gatekeeping' techniques by local authority Homeless Persons' Units (HPUs,) whereby they try to reduce the number of homeless applications accepted. Pressure from central Government initiatives to 'prevent homelessness' and reduce the number of people in temporary accommodation have encouraged the local authorities to find ways to avoid acknowledging the homelessness of people who approach them and to provide them with interim accommodation while making enquiries. This is done by means such as giving verbal discouragements rather than properly investigated written decisions, demanding excessive amounts of supporting paperwork, advice to await eviction through the courts rather than leave when given notice by a landlord and pressure to accept inappropriate alternative accommodation. Much of this is designed to elongate the process in the hope that people will become frustrated and give up on their application or find an alternative solution in the meantime. In doing so they fail to fulfil their already limited legislated duties to help homeless people, for the sake of meeting centrally set targets and protecting inadequate housing stock.

For some time now, the London Coalition Against Poverty (LCAP) has been opposing gatekeeping practices in the London Borough of Hackney by means such as distributing information on the duties of local authorities outside the HPU and carrying out direct action casework to support those being denied their legal rights in demanding them.

However, Hackney are by no means the only offender; therefore LCAP is proposing to put on a Gatekeeping Roadshow to tour our efforts to raise awareness of these practices around 10 other London boroughs over a five-week period, starting on the 25th May. The Roadshow will be highlighting the widespread nature of these practices, distributing information about the duties of HPUs, gathering feedback about the experiences of those presenting themselves as homeless and, where appropriate, offering LCAP's support to those being fobbed of by the local authority.

Although LCAP is co-ordinating the campaign, in many cases it is groups from the communities local to the areas we are visiting that are taking part. We intend to present our findings to the Department of Housing at the end of the Roadshow. Should any of your readers be interested in becoming involved in this campaign, we can be contacted at: gatekeepingroadshow@googlemail.com and would welcome people either to come along on the days of the Roadshow, to call on local authorities to end these practices, or groups who want to take on regular work in their local area, as we have been doing in Hackney. Further information and all our materials can be downloaded from the www.lcap.org.uk website by following the Gatekeeping Roadshow link. It is our contention that the countrywide reduction in accepted homeless applications in recent years does not represent the effectiveness of homelessness prevention so much as the effectiveness of gatekeeping, and the false picture that this gives will continue to hamper calls for a necessary increase in secure social housing if left unchallenged.

Yours Sincerely,

The London Coalition Against Poverty, by email

By the time you're reading this, it'll have been going a few days, but, with five weeks planned, there's still plenty of time. Get involved. Even if you don't think you've been affected by gatekeeping, help others and prevent it in future by helping this campaign.

Editor
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