I have thought long and hard about writing this blog. As much of this is private information, I will refer to the person concerned as Reg. It's not his name. That is irrelevant. What is relevant is the disgusting way he's been treated by Barnet Council, local Healthcare service, mental health services and even the London Ambulance service. Worst of all, it is an indictment on the lack of regulation of dodgy private landlords.
I am seperately dealing with his specific issues, but I am writing this in the (probably vain) hope that someone, somewhere in authority will read this and change the way people like Reg are dealt with.
I've known Reg for a few years. He is a lovely chap, but suffers various challenges around his mental health and he also has physical challenges as well. He is mobile but has challenges walking distance. He has been depressed for several years following the loss of family members.
Lets start with his accomodation. He is renting a converted garage from a private landlord. Recently, BBC Radio London were dicussing bad landlords on The Eddie Nestor show. I tweeted this
Hey @EddieNestorMBE @BBCRadioLondon you were talking about bad accommodation. A friends flat is like this, a private landlord, no gas safe checks, CO or smoke alarms, mould everywhere even in the electric supply box, wonder if @BarnetCouncil can help? pic.twitter.com/8HJfgCvv8R— Roger Tichborne/Rog T (@Barneteye) November 16, 2022
As you can see from the pictures, the property is damp and unsafe. A friend is currently putting together a full dossier of the issues with a view to getting Reg rehoused or at the very least get the issues resolved. Reg yesterday informed me that the Landlord of his property includes his energy as part of the rent. This is on a pay as you go meter that the Landlord tops up. It appears that the Landlord has been regularly failing to top up the meter, leaving reg without heat and hot water. As temperatures are dropping to -6C this week, I was most concerned that if the meter runs out, Reg may actually freeze to death as the garage is not insulated. We have arranged for an electric heater to be dropped off as a backup. Reg is on benefits and has to get by on a pittance, so is in no position to move. His rent is payed by Barnet Council directly to the Landlord. The situation has been going on for years. It has severely affected Reg's mental health and he has recently been feeling suicidal. His GP is aware of this.
This brings us on to his health. He has been referred to mental health services and has had various assessments, however there has been no effort to address the route cause, his dangerous and substandard accomodation. As part of our efforts to get him rehoused, a GP appointment was made yesterday and Reg asked me to attend to help him. We wanted a GP letter of support to assist with his case. Reg is not an assertive person, in fact he is highly deferrential to authority. I went to act as his advocate. I was largely unaware of his medical history and only attended as my friend who is leading efforts on Reg's behalf was away. What I learned dismayed me. Despite Reg's multiple mental health challenges, little apart from medication has been done and the GP informed me it was not part of a doctors remit to assist Reg with getting better accomodation. When someone is in Reg's situation, it is not their job to liaise with social services to sort out issues that cause health challenges.
To me that was bad enough, but the GP then started reading through Reg's file. It turns out he'd had a stool sample earlier in the year, which showed an irregularity and a colonoscopy was recommended. Reg had been unable to attend as there was no one to accompany him. I cannot believe that he is the only person who has been in this situation. Of course, now we are on the case with that, but how many people on their own are simply left to develop cancer. Reg also mentioned to the GP that he'd lost brothers to prostate cancer. A PSA test has been arranged. As Reg is in his early 50's and regularly visited the Doctor, I was surprised this has only just been suggested. I was offered one aged 49, without the family history of Reg.
Reg also mentioned a recent incident to the Doctor. He was walking back from the shops and his legs had given way. He'd fallen over and a passing ambulance saw, as he lives by a main road. The ambulance crew stopped and checked him over. They then gave him a lift home. Apparently this was not logged. I simply could not believe that there was no follow up.
When I asked why Reg was walking such a distance, he informed me that several years ago, Barnet Council had revoked his Freedom Pass. Regular readers will know all about this. Sadly, it was not re-instated. A man with mental health and mobility issues has been put in a position where his social isolation is massively increased. We are now trying to get this reinstated, but this will take time. The GP letter we got yesterday will support this.
When we discussed the letter with the GP, he stated that 'normally we charge £25 for this". As he'd established Reg was on benefits and had no spare cash, this was waived. After the consult, Reg told me that was the first time he'd been let off the charge. It's clear to me that this is because I was their and Reg had someone to fight his corner.
There is more, but I am sure you get the picture. I have never felt so disgusted with the system, the Borough of Barnet and our local GP services. Because Reg is an adult, apparently he is not a priority for rehousing, even though his health is suffering.
The following points are clear to me.
1. Vulnerable people should have a proper advocate with them when dealing with authority. This should be provioded for those without friends as a legal requirement.
2. GP's should be legally required to work with social services where people's health is damaged by issues that are dealt with by multiple agencies.
3. GP's should be legally required to contact authorities where sub standard rental accomodation is damaging people's health.
4. Barnet Council needs to urgently review its freedom pass allocation for vulnerable people