CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Elderly in ‘turmoil’ as blunder leads to eviction threat letters

Housing association issues apology after letters cause panic among vulnerable residents

11 February, 2019 — By Tom Foot

The Oldfield Estate

VULNERABLE elderly people are in ­“turmoil” after eviction threat letters were wrongly sent out by housing managers to hundreds of retirement homes.

Central & Cecil Housing Trust issued a “formal apology” last night (Wednesday) over the letters received by frail and elderly residents of Oldfield estate, in Primrose Hill, demanding money that some did not owe.

The letters said the trust would “begin legal proceedings to take ownership of your home” if hundreds of pounds of arrears were not paid within seven days. The trust blamed human error for the “mistake”.

The bungle has affected hundreds of homes throughout London including more than 200 at Oldfield. C&C, originally set up to provide refuge for homeless young women, says it now supplies “inspirational, person-centred care and support to older people”.

Oldfield resident Sally de Sousa, who found her letter when she returned from a hospital appointment on Tuesday, said: “This letter shows a depth of arrogance and disregard for people at a level of which I have never seen in my 77 years. Even our new manager was shocked. The letter was folded and slipped through our letter-boxes, not even in envelope.”

She added: “The whole of Oldfield estate is upset and in turmoil. Why cannot senior C&C staff understand how vital a safe and secure home is to vulnerable people, particularly the elderly. It is our safe haven.”

Several residents have contacted the New Journal since the letters went out on Monday. Some said they had begun making payments for arrears they now realise they did not owe.

Many Oldfield residents are unable to get out of bed.

The arrears referred to in the C&C rent demand letter were in fact paid each month in housing benefit to the trust.

In January 2018, the New Journal reported concerns from residents about staff cuts at C&C head office and its man­agement teams. C&C had issued redundancy notices to many staff, including those at head office.

Primrose Hill councillor Pat Callaghan, deputy leader of the council, said in an email to C&C chief executive Julia Ashley: “I hope that you or one of the team are going to visit Oldfield today to reassure residents who are still confused and frightened about the letters and consequent ‘mixed messages’ they are receiving. This in­cident has made residents anxious about their future.”

C&C said its director of service Yvonne Atkin­son and chief executive Ms Ashley had visited Oldfield estate to “person­ally meet residents and discuss this issue”.

In a “sincere apology” to residents, Ms Ashley added: “This was not of the standard of commun­ication or service that C&C expects to provide. “It is important to us that we do everything we can to support residents to pay their rent, and when things go wrong, to communicate clearly and with compassion. We will also always do all we can to rectify our mistakes. We are looking to provide residents with the best service possible.”

A statement added: “C&C had a major system change this year. The letters were sent out to residents identified in our system as being in arrears. We acknowledge that some were incorrectly identif­ied.”

The state­ment added that the problem was not related to staff changes last year.

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