Our advisers are better than your barristers ….. (and justice prevailed!)

One of my colleagues spent yesterday in Court successfully defending four bailiffs warrants.  All four warrants were stopped, and families can remain in their homes.

The best bit of my colleague’s day came with her last case.  She described it as a “titanic battle” arguing the case for over 45 minutes.  The warrant had been due to be executed later in the day and our client would have been homeless.

After the Court decided in favour of our client, the client turned to the (well-paid) barrister acting for the landlord and said of our (much less well paid) adviser: “Sorry you lost mate.  It’s just that she’s better than you.  Innit?”

Here are contact details for the BHT Advice Centres in Brighton, Eastbourne and Hastings:





An exciting job in Fulfilling Lives, our multiple and complex needs project

Fulfilling Lives is an eight-year Big Lottery Funded national project, currently in its fourth year, focusing on providing more effective, more efficient and better co-ordinated services for people with multiple and complex needs. The project operates in Brighton and Hove, Eastbourne and Hastings and is delivered through multi-agency delivery partners in each area.

We are looking to recruit an Operational Manager. 

This is an exciting opportunity for a dynamic and driven individual to join our Management Team. The post holder will be responsible for the operational management of the Project, ensuring its effective and efficient delivery. The post encompasses service planning and delivery, staff support and supervision, managing relationships with external bodies and funders, robust data recording, service reporting, and ensuring effective service delivery in line with the project’s goals and objectives.

The post holder (or post holders – this role could suit a job share) will, together with the Senior Manager, be responsible for the successful delivery of the Fulfilling Lives South East Project.

The post holder(s) will have a relevant professional background in the field of complex needs including homelessness, substance misuse, mental health and offending, with significant management experience including experience of change management and operational planning. We are looking for exceptional communication skills and the ability to motivate effectively.

The post holder(s) will need to evidence experience of working in the field of multiple and complex needs, alongside management experience and partnership working.

The post is based in Hastings, but the post holder(s) will be required to work across all 3 sites in Brighton, Eastbourne and Hastings

For full details and to apply please go to our website or email us.

Closing Date: 12 noon, Wednesday 20th June 2018

Interview Date: Wednesday 27th June 2018

Residential addiction services needed in Hastings to reduce drug-related deaths

Today I have renewed my call for the provision in Hastings of residential rehabilitation services for those with alcohol and drug addictions.  This follows news that Hastings is now the area with the third highest level of drug-related deaths in the country, behind only Blackpool and Burnley.

Graph courtesy of the BBC

In Hastings there were 6.5 deaths per 100,000 residents according to statistics published this week by the Office for National Statistics.  Statistics released in 2016 reported that Hastings had the eighth highest level of drug-related deaths in England and Wales.

In 2016 I was critical of local authorities in East Sussex for failing to provide local residential rehabilitation services for those with alcohol and drug addictions.  A spokesperson for East Sussex County Council said that it was better to send people away for treatment.  That approach was prevalent in the 1980s and 90s, but experience has shown that it does not work.

Brighton and Hove used to have the highest rate but the city has two local residential rehabilitation services, one run by BHT, the other by the social care charity Care Grow Live.  The number of drug-related deaths in the city has fallen dramatically.  There are several reasons for this, not least residential rehabilitation services for local people.

So I have repeated my call for local authorities in East Sussex to set up residential rehab services.  I am happy to offer my assistance to bring this about.

I was the manager of BHT Sussex’s Addiction Services for seventeen years before becoming BHT’s chief executive in 2003.  The addiction services have a success rate more than three times the national average for positive outcomes, with two thirds of clients living alcohol and drug-free lives.

Since April 2014, 120 former clients have moved into employment (saving in benefits of c£1.5 million and income tax gains of c£0.5 million each year)

As a result of positive outcomes from BHT’s Addiction Services:

  • Over 200 drug and alcohol-related attendances at the local A&E Department prevented each year
  • 380 drug and alcohol-related visits to local GP services prevented each year
  • Over 600 prescriptions for mood-altering medication not required each year

We really need services that work, that save and change lives.  It is not right that people continue to die when we can do something to change that.

Charlie Jordan: remembering a community activist extraordinaire

Charlie Jordan

Time Out Argus published a photograph of Charlie Jordan standing under one of Brighton’s piers and asked who he was (13 February 2018).

Charlie was a community activist extraordinaire and, in spite of being an atheist, was the first director of People and Churches Together (now Impact Initiatives).

He was a leading light in the Emmaus movement, helping to establish both the Brighton and Hastings Emmaus projects.

A South African by birth, he had a passion for social justice, and was influential in shaping the charity sector in Brighton.  He encouraged others and gave others opportunities that then led to further opportunities.  In around 1981 he gave me my first formal role in social policy, asking me to write a report on unemployment in Brighton.  I am forever in his debt.

Many years later (by which time he had kicked his 40 a day habit) he invited me to meet visitors from Emmaus Paris.  After the meeting, we walked home together, parting at Preston Circus but not before Charlie held forth of a range of topics, for well over an hour.  Charlie could talk!  The next morning I heard the shocking news that Charlie had died overnight.

There were many people in the voluntary sector who, around that time, helped to make Brighton a better place, people like Jenny Backwell, Peter Field (now the Lord Lieutenant), Selma Montford, Bruno Crosby and Patricia Norman.  Charlie Jordan was one of the most influential and he is someone I still miss today.

(There was a moving tribute to Charlie by Terry Waite published in The Independent shortly after Charlie’s death in 2009)

David Gauke says that all that is wrong with Universal Credit is that criticisms go without challenge

David Gauke, the Work and Pensions Secretary, has denied that the introduction of Universal Credit is causing hardship. He said: “I strongly believe we have got a really good policy with this that will transform lives, but there is almost a sort of knee-jerk criticism and a temptation in particular with universal credit that you can almost say anything critical about it and it goes without challenge.”

That’s alright, then.  Just the same as when Iain Duncan Smith repeatedly claimed that Universal Credit would be delivered “on time and within budget”. The massive overspend, the wasted millions on a failed IT system, and the massive overrun on its delivery must be Fake News.

And what about the hardship being caused to those claiming Universal Credit. Fake News, Fake News, Fake News.  It just goes without challenge.

What about the excellent and well-researched article by Heather Spurr, once with Inside Housing and now with Shelter.

And what about this item by the Resolution Foundation, or this from the Institute for Government, or this from Citizens Advice, or BHT’s own research following the roll out of Universal Credit in Hastings.

I know I have had a word or two to say about Universal Credit, such as the blog post entitled “Universal Credit is a disgrace, and those who have advocated it and continue to defend it should hang their heads in shame” or this one “Another day, another report on the disaster that is Universal Credit” or this one “More evidence of the disaster zone that is known as Universal Credit” or this “Should the roll out of Universal Credit continue at this time? Watch the evidence to Parliament’s Work and Pensions Committee”.

Noi doubt it is all Fake News that has gone without challenge.

The problem, Mr Gauke, is not that criticism goes unchallenged.  The problem, in the words of the former Conservative Prime Minister, John Major, is that Universal Credit is “operationally messy, socially unfair and unforgiving” (see here).

The problem, Mr Gauke, is that you, Mr Duncan Smith, the DWP and the government as a whole carry on regardless, in spite of the evidence.  The most modest reforms imaginable announced in the autumn won’t resolve the fundamental flaws inherent in Universal Credit. A lick of paint would not have saved the Titanic after it brushed up against an iceberg.

Universal Credit has become Mrs May’s poll tax. (I vlogged on this recently).  No matter how well Mr Gauke defends the indefensible, Universal Credit remains flawed, it remains operationally messy, it remains socially unfair, and it remains unforgiving.

The Ministry of Justice, or MiniJustice for short, is on the verge of wrecking the Court Duty scheme that prevents homelessness

In George Orwell’s 1984, there were government departments that had names with a meaning the polar opposite to what the department did.  According to Wikipedia, “the Ministry of Truth is the propaganda ministry. As with the other ministries in the novel, the name Ministry of Truth is a misnomer because in reality it serves the opposite: it is responsible for any necessary falsification of historical events.”

So too with the Ministry of Justice.  One would have thought the purpose of such a ministry would be to uphold and promote justice, but it appears to do the polar opposite, rationing access to justice, ensuring that accessing justice is difficult for all but the most well off.

But the Ministry of Justice isn’t from 1984, it is Britain in 2017.

The new Lord Chancellor, David Lidington, has been in post since the 11 June 2017.  Since that date, for example, the BHT advice centre in Hastings has stopped 11 households from losing their home because they got assistance under the Court Duty Scheme.  (Three years ago I wrote a live blog about the Brighton Court Duty scheme undertaken by our Brighton advice centre.  I also published an account in October 2014 of the experience of someone whose home we saved through Court Duty).

The MoJ, or should we call it MiniJustice, is consulting on the future of Court Duty services. Court duty for possession cases is the last gasp chance at access to justice.  It is the last line of defence, and for many it is their last hope in saving their homes.  BHT, for example, has an advisor or solicitor in the Court building in case someone turns up without legal representation.

Almost everyone who responded to the Court Duty consultation said that bringing in price to the tendering will be a race to the bottom, but the MOJ thinks it will bring in greater competition…..

What price does anyone put on this? Right now MiniJustice says £71 plus VAT. That’s the fee organisations like BHT get at Court Duty for saving someone’s home.  Imagine the costs to the state, local and national, for each household that becomes homeless.  £71 + VAT must be the Bargain of the Century for government.

Solicitors are already pulling out from operating Court Duty contracts.  Just last month Tunbridge Wells became another Court without a Desk Duty scheme.

According to Bob Neill MP, chairman of the Justice Select Committee in the Commons and a Conservative MP, that, while he understands the budget pressures the government is under, he believes “we have now removed more than the system can take and should rectify the anomalies as soon as possible”.

MiniJustice had planned to cut the legal aid expenditure by £350m, but the spending has reduced from around £2.2bn to £1.6bn, almost twice the plan. The cuts have had a devastating impact on the number of firms and local advice centres from which the public can obtain help. The latest statistics reveal a 32% reduction in the number of providers since the LASPO cuts were made.

Most importantly, there are now nearly a million fewer civil legal aid cases than there were seven years ago.  Further cuts and changes to the Court Duty scheme will exacerbate this and we will see yet more homelessness.

Private rented housing is “out of reach” for under 35s, says the Chartered Institute of Housing

The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) recently carried out research into the gap between rents in the private rented sector and what Local Housing Allowance (LHA) will pay.

LHA is based on the 30th centile of the range rents charged in the private rented sector. Except it isn’t. That was how it was supposed to be (having previously been reduced from there 50th centile). In fact, the level of payment has been frozen for three years and will be frozen until 2019/20. LHA no longer reflects in any way the reality of rents in a locality.

In Brighton and Hove the rates are £82.66 for a room in a shared house, £153.02 for a one bed flat, £192.48 for a two bed property. The average one bed flat in Brighton and Hove is now £971 per month compared to LHA of £612.08 for the same period.

In Eastbourne the rates are £67.00, £116.53 and £151.50, and in Hastings £69.77, £92.06 and £120.29. (There are higher rates for 3 and 4 properties).

It is worse for you if you are under 35 where you are restricted to claiming LHA for just a room in a shared house.

And if you think it is bad for under 35s, it is EVEN worse for those under 21 for whom the rate is zero (unless you are ‘lucky’ enough to qualify for one of several exemptions – merely being a rough sleeper is not enough).

So what has the CIH found? It has found that the gap between LHA and rents has widened to the point where private rented housing is “out of reach” for under 35s.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote how the senior civil servant responsible for housing policy at the Department for Work and Pensions, Darrell Smith, said that the government is now going to use LHA rates to set new, lower rents for specialist supported housing. Why? Because it is such a good barometer for the market? No. He said: “The one advantage of (LHA rates) is that they are already there, so it doesn’t cost the government anything to set it up. I know”, he continued, “that isn’t a great answer but that’s all I have got”.