Fenland Council ‘rescues’ vulnerable man from squalid Wisbech bedsit by helping him to reclaim £6,000 in backdated benefits

Fenland District Council has revealed how they were able to help a vulnerable man with learning diff

Fenland District Council has revealed how they were able to help a vulnerable man with learning difficulties living in a squalid bedsit in Wisbech to reclaim over £6,000 in benefits to which he was entitled. The man's landlord is facing action. Picture; SHELTER - Credit: Archant

A single man with learning difficulties living in a run down bedsit in Wisbech was offered a lifeline by Fenland Council after housing officers helped him secure £6,000 in backdated benefits.

The case study was presented to the overview and scrutiny committee to show how private sector housing enforcement is being empowered through extra Government funding.

Officials discovered the horrors of the living conditions during what they describe as an "ad hoc" visit to a listed building with two first floors in commercial premises.

The catalogue of mismanagement greeted them as they walked in with an insecure entry door, poor lighting, no light switch, water seeping in and no staircase guard.

When they went into the bedsit, they found no kitchen work surfaces, no smoke detectors, severe damp and mould to the bathroom with inadequate extractors, an inefficient heating system and a poor energy performance rating.

The housing team say they discussed matters at length with the tenant and his mother "and offered ongoing referrals for support to improve outcomes.

"Areas of concerns included lack of benefit support resulting in possible homelessness, vulnerability and exploitation."

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The housing team said referrals were made to relevant agencies "and as a result the tenant was able to complete a PIP (Personal Independence Payment) application. It increased his entitlement to welfare benefits which has resulted in a backdated payment dating back to May 2015 totalling £6,240."

Next the housing inspectors turned their attention to the landlord they labelled as being "obstructive."

When they wrote to him they got no reply but eventually he did attend and some repairs had been carried but were "inadequate" say officers.

"The landlord was obstructive as to how and when the remedial works would be completed," says their report. "Improvement notices are being prepared for service."

Since March 2018, the housing team at Fenland has intervened in hundreds of cases to deal with specific faults in both the private rented sector and in owner occupied properties.

Nearly 300 notices have gone out in respect of smoke detectors, 134 formal appointments have been made, and 325 letters sent out requesting remedial repairs.,

And in 10 cases enforcement notices have been issued, says the council.

Portfolio holder for housing Cllr Sam Hoy says she is working with officers to take a tougher line on enforcement using existing powers and a meeting with Peterborough City Council has gained fresh insights with a new process now being introduced.