4th August 2010
Yesterday was Anthony’s 29th birthday. We had gone out for the day to Hartlepool so it was late by the time we got home again. I was glad for the distraction in one respect as it took my mind off feeling down on his birthday. Wish we could be on talking terms but somehow I can’t see that happening any time soon.
In early November 2009 one of Rick’s cousins rang up about his sister. She had had contact with a social worker. At first we were unclear about what was going on other than there was a threat that her two youngest children would be put into foster care. He arranged to come and see us and for all of us to see his sister. We did this over the first weekend in November.
On the Saturday we went to see her at her place of work. She mentioned that the state of her place was an issue and needed to get it straight before the social worker saw it. From there we went to her home and were shocked how bad it really was. I had remembered how bad it smelt although I had only been there once 20 months previously when w had got Tasha. My only other memories had been that it was dark and the floor was sticky. The harsh reality was that it was absolutely filthy throughout and rubbish was stacked up high.
We agreed that the children couldn’t stay in the maisonette until the place had been cleaned through. Rick’s cousin wasn’t happy at first as we suggested they stayed with us. She wouldn’t agree at first then after a while said they could if she came to stay with us as well. Rick and I reluctantly agreed as we live in a two bedroom house so space would be tight. At the time we thought it would only be for a couple of weeks.
As the days went by we realized how serious the problem was. It went beyond the house being dirty as there was also an accusation that her mother had been abusing the children. Her mother had been living with them for 11 years since her youngest child had been born. This was actually true but it took a few days before we knew this. In the meantime we made a start on trying to clean the maisonette up to be fit to live in again. It was so bad that both toilets, one in the bathroom and one downstairs, had been blocked for a long time. The family had been using buckets but there was also excrement everywhere. It was human and animal excrement as she had five cats. They had also owned dogs but the R.S.P.C. A. had taken the dogs away months ago. Rick arranged for the cats to be taken as well. He had spoken to her landlord who agreed to let her stay provided her mother moved out and that the pets went as well.
While we were cleaning out the maisonette we helped out Rick’s cousin with sorting out her housing and council tax benefits. She had been paying too much top up for her rent which was partially paid by Housing Benefit. Letters had been sent out to confirm her mother’s income and for her to confirm her daughter was in higher education. She hadn’t done anything about these so the amount of benefit she should have received hadn’t been dealt with.
During this time we were going along to meetings with Rick’s cousin with the social worker. She was informed about what was going on and was quite happy about this. It put a stop to the children going into care as they were out of the maisonette and their grandmother wasn’t with them. We were told that a social worker would still have to come out to our home as that was procedure. One would also be going to the father’s home of the second youngest child as he was spending some time there. We were all quite happy about this as we would be able to prove that our homes were safe environments.
In the meantime the landlord changed his mind and gave us a letter of eviction to give to her. We weren’t happy about this as it was stressful having so many of us living under one roof. The youngest son was with us full time, the other son was spending his time between us and his father, and, her daughter was with us at weekends. His cousin was spending more and more time at her place of work. It became normal for her to sleep over there four or five nights a week leaving us to look after her children when they weren’t at school. It wasn’t so much that we minded as they were well behaved for us it was the principle of the matter. Our lives were evolving round the children’s routine but when their mother was about it was like living through World War III at times.
The next plan of action was to get Rick’s cousin on the housing waiting list as they couldn’t live with us indefinitely. The forms were filled in so it was just a case of waiting for a decision as the council had to look into the circumstances behind her eviction.
The social worker was kept up to date with what was going on and offered to help if needed. She also made arrangements for the boys to be interviewed by her. This is standard procedure but we were told that they would be seen without their mother or one of them sitting in on it. We weren’t happy about this and had our concerns that an appropriate wouldn’t be present. Before the interview Rick did some ringing around and managed to arrange for a child advocate to be in with the boys. She met us at the office a couple of minutes before the interview and was a lovely lady. When the social worker came to us the advocate introduced herself and was allowed in on the interview. The social worker couldn’t refuse to let her be in the boys as it was their right to have an adult with them.
The family was going to stay with her father over Christmas which we were quietly relieved about. We were looking forward to having our home back to normal for a couple of weeks. Rick’s cousin was also getting to the stage that she was getting desperate to have her own place. We agreed that it would be a good idea to be pushy with the council after Christmas. The plan was to let them know that none of us could take living in cramped conditions which was being completely honest. The procedure would be for the council to arrange for her and the children to go into a bed and breakfast hotel as a temporary measure. Our only concern was that if the family went into a bed and breakfast before Christmas was that they would be expected to be there over the seasonal period. The children were looking forward to seeing their grandfather. After having a chat with the council as well she agreed to wait till after Christmas before moving out.
There were also concerns about whether the council would help. Rick’s cousin had been told she would need to look for private rented accommodation. The problem for her was raising the deposit as landlords generally ask for the equivalent of a month’s rent for the deposit. The actual rent wasn’t a problem as landlords are prepared to wait until the Housing Benefit office starts paying. The council was taking it’s time doing checks and had spoken to her ex landlord who had given their version of events. At this point she wasn’t sure if the council would help with raising the deposit.
The couple of weeks over the Christmas period were peaceful and restful for us. It was lovely to get our home back to ourselves and do what we wanted when we wanted to. Christmas Day was a much needed quiet, restful day.
All too quickly Rick’s cousin and children were back. She started looking for property to rent and we went with her to the homeless housing department to get things moving. It was arranged for the family to go into a bed and breakfast as a temporary measure. Initially social services paid the bill while they discussed with the council who should pick up the bill. A friend offered to pay the deposit once she found somewhere to live. It didn’t take long for her to find a house to rent for the family. Our contact with the family finished shortly afterwards although we still have contact with her brother. It didn’t surprise us but we still felt used to a certain degree.