Foundation are absolutely thrilled to become the providers of a Legal Services team. The team, funded by legal aid, provide specialist housing advice and legal support, throughout the north of England. Providing court duty in York, Scarborough, Bridlington, Bradford, Skipton and Harrogate – the service has a broad geographical base, benefitting both our customers and the wider community in those areas.
Foundation Chief Executive, Maggie Jones, is delighted with the addition of these services to Foundation’s broad provision. Introducing the new team, Maggie said, ‘This is momentous in being our first traded service directly to the public. It’s a great service for our customers and gives us the opportunity to work more closely with the wider community, where people are struggling to make ends meet.’
The Legal Services team are headed up by Jackqueline Hauxwell. Jackie says that she and most of her team, came through to work in housing law after starting out in the advice and welfare rights field. She describes how for vulnerable people with complex needs, perhaps housed by local authorities, the stress that is experienced when an individual’s ‘homelessness status’ is up for review, can be a catastrophic addition to already difficult personal circumstances. She gives an example of a couple she recently supported, both of whom have severe learning difficulties and mental health issues.
The couple, who are expecting their first baby, fled their accommodation after a violent assault from a neighbour. Jackie and her team had to work hard to gain a judicial review on the couple’s status after the local authority failed to reach a decision on whether or not the couple had made themselves ‘intentionally homeless’. The couple, who face losing their child to the care of the local authority due to their complex needs, also faced the stress of losing their home. Jackie says, ‘we know that some of our customers are a difficult proposition for landlords, but our aim is always to keep a tenant in accommodation’.
(Jackie Hauxwell (left) and Sarah Robinson (right) are two of the team members from the Foundation Legal Services team)
The team also support individuals and families that believe that they have been unlawfully evicted or are accused of anti-social behaviour. Sarah Robinson, another member of the legal team, explains why an accusation of anti-social behaviour is not always as simple as it may seem: ‘Many of our clients who have been accused of anti-social behaviour are actually victims of domestic abuse. Those that are causing the noise nuisance or damage to the properties are often the perpetrators of violence, they could be the partner or son of a vulnerable woman. As the tenant, she is the one who has the order served upon her.’ Sarah goes onto explain how this can impact on the tenant in many ways. A woman she recently worked with broke down in tears after receiving a letter from her local authority describing, ‘seriously unacceptable behaviour’. This woman was a victim of serious domestic abuse, the letter only served to make her feel that she was a ‘bad person’, another knock to her already dangerously low self-esteem.
With insights such as these, the Legal Services team aim to ensure that as a social housing provider, Foundation will ‘stand apart’. Jackie and her team plan to provide in-house training for Foundation, an offering they then hope to take to other housing providers, providing the charity with a much needed source of income. Foundation’s aims are to lead the field in ensuring high quality housing support for the vulnerable and marginalised in our communities.
The Legal Service is available to the public. For housing advice please call the advice line on 01274 211014 or email email@example.com.