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Ben Reeve Lewis Friday Newsround #120

Ben on a chair[Ben Reeve Lewis is depressed at the pointlessness of it all ...]

I was training the good people of Bournemouth Homelessness unit on Wednesday.

I have been in some swanky training rooms before but this one had a bit of class, the wedding room of the town hall. See picture as some of the delegates started arriving.

As palatial as it looks it was actually bloody freezing and while it was 90 degrees outside and not a cloud in the sky we all wore jackets and sat shivering and drinking endless cups of coffee just to keep warm
Bournemouth Town Hall

Homelessness crews

I particularly enjoy training homeless crews. They are people I understand.

They have a very dark sense of humour born of years seeing some pretty dreadful things, they argue for a living so aren’t shy creatures and the have pretty much been there, got the T shirt etc and had all their naiveté rubbed off.

Their critics often think of them as cynical but this isn’t true at all. Guarded? Yes, jaded? Possibly, it’s difficult not to be when you spend each hour of everyday up to your elbows in human misery but they still care.

They could all do other jobs but they stay in there, where they can make a difference.

Costly and wasteful prison sentences

It’s particularly wearing when you see the same people turn up again and again which is why I noted with interest an article in Inside Housing  on a report that has been published on how repetitive prison sentences are adversely affecting the housing economy, calling them “Costly, wasteful and unaccountable”

The report by homeless charity St Mungos says:-

“The most frequent outcomes for women upon their release were homeless person’s services, temporary housing or staying with friends. The number of women in temporary housing after leaving prison was higher than in their previous situation”

Much as I understand the points raised in the report I can’t see what the alternative is. You have to go some to get banged up. Many people repeat offend several times before HM Government calls time on them. What do we do? Not put people in prison?

A job opportunity?

Maybe I’m turning into my dad but surely the people must take some responsibility for themselves as well, or have I been working in homelessness for too long? Indeed am I in danger of being recruited as a senior member of UKIP, given they all keep having to leave for making the most horrendous racist and sexist gaffs.

There’s a job opportunity for me, all I need is a camel hair coat, a large cigar and a portrait of Alf Garnet on the wall next to the Queen.

A pointless prosecution

Talking of getting banged up 24 Dash ran a story about a woman who swindled benefits to the tune of £24,000 but still didn’t do time.  She got a 12 week sentence, suspended for 24 months but Hillingdon Council fraud manager Gary Coote proudly announced:-

“This council takes a tough stance on benefit cheats and is pleased when they are caught and successfully prosecuted in court – after all it’s your money they are stealing.”

Ha-ha what complete council press officer bollocks. Gary Coote would have had nothing to do with saying that apart from answer an email from the press team saying “Is this ok”. In reality he and his team would have been fuming at all the work put in only to have a judge rubbish it.

This isn’t a result and it’s certainly no deterrent to any other benefit fraudsters and is one of those reasons why council enforcement officer get criticised for not prosecuting more….. because it’s so often a waste of time.

What it really cost

That case would have taken at least a year to come to court, countless case meetings and officer time all for a 12 week suspended sentence.

That is £8,000 each week for the money she swindled PAH! As Gary’s Press officer said “After all it’s your money they are stealing”. It’s the bloody judges that are stealing the money, getting paid for that rubbish. My heart goes out to you Gary.

And relax!

A wealthy socialist (so whats new)

To salve my irritation and restore my good mood I turn where else? But to the excellent Planet Property and as predicted found something to make me laugh.  A review of the Daily Mai’s outraged coverage of the selling of George Galloway’s house in Streatham.

The PP team amusing themselves by highlighting the outrage that a professed socialist should own a £1.5 million house with a framed picture of Che Guavara above the fire place.

“Nice to see the Mail adding attacks on left-wing politicians to its usual temperate coverage of cancer, immigrants breathing British air, benefit fraudsters with 50 children living in mansions, rubbish NHS hospitals, and the wonderful royal family.”

Runs the article, adding:-

“This has to be the best George Galloway + house story since the man appeared on Big Brother and memorably asked Runa Lenska ”and would you like me to be the cat?”.

Do you remember the car crash TV that was George Galloway on Celeb BB? An all-time classic. I never watch but became so addicted to the nightly horror that although assisting on someone else’s training course at the time I admit I feigned illness so I could run home and watch that night’s instalment.

Just like Newham then …

The Guardian housing network had an interesting piece about rents in Rio’s slums starting to rise in anticipation of the Olympics in 3 years’ time  Just like Newham in 2012 then.

To be fair the world cup is there next year and that had something to do with it but along with the clean-up process that is going on so the world don’t have to look at the shite conditions people live in (just like Newham then) the residents of the various favela’s are digging their heels in and refusing to be relocated to dormitory towns with no infrastructure, just to be swept out of the way so unregulated developers can buy up the plots and build high rises on the same space.

The article’s author Ruben Selvanayagam writes:-

The very erratic nature of local governance means fears remain that the funding tap may be turned off at any minute and that the pacification police forces could disappear after the Olympics.”

So there you go…..just like Newham then.

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About the post author:

Ben Reeve-Lewis

Ben is an enforcement officer for a London Local Authority, a housing law trainer, an author on housing law who writes for the Guardian & occasionally pops up wittering away on TV. He also runs Easy Law Training with Tessa & Graeme. Occasionally he sleeps. Find him on Google, and Journalisted. Any opinions expressed are Ben's personal views & don't reflect those of any organisations he may refer to.



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