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Petition to bring housing associations under the FOI Act.

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HelenaDove · 28/09/2018 16:38

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HelenaDove · 28/09/2018 16:42

some background.

HelenaDove Thu 06-Jul-17 14:49:56

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HelenaDove Thu 06-Jul-17 14:51:55

Housing associations are not subject to the FOI Act and can refuse to answer requests about fire risks, safety problems, eviction policies, waiting lists and other matters.

Examples of requests for information which housing authorities have refused include:

the cause of a fire in a housing association flat, requested by a neighbouring tenant [1]
whether potentially toxic lead pipes were used for the water supply to a property [2]
the amount of flytipped waste and litter collected from a housing association’s estates [3]
the number of repossession orders served since the ‘bedroom tax’ came into force, and the number of those tenants who had no arrears before that date [4]
the policy which permitted an association to pack up an evicted tenant’s possessions and confidential documents instead of allowing him to collect them [5]
the number of properties adapted for disabled persons (the requester said she wanted: ‘just the number, nothing else’) [6]
the number of asylum seekers housed [7]
the number of properties empty for more than 6 weeks [8]
the electricity bill which led a tenant to be charged £1,200 to cover the costs of 6 communal light bulbs [9]
the make and model of street lighting on an estate which the requester found ‘overpowering’ at night. He wanted to use the information to contact the manufacturer to see if they could suggest a remedy [10]
details of a contract for emptying septic tanks shared by a housing association and privately owned properties. The requester, a private owner, wanted to know the basis on which he was being charged [11]
the numbers of complaints about repairs [12]
the circumstances in which tenants have been given permission to sublet and action taken against those subletting without permission [13]
the policy on dealing with requests for an individual’s own personal information under the Data Protection Act and the relevant application form [14]
the job description of the housing association’s Head of Governance [15]

Such information is routinely disclosed by local authorities in response to FOI requests. Most of the above requests were made through the website and referred to the FOI Act. This prompted many housing associations to point out that the Act did not apply to them. This would not have prevented them releasing information voluntarily and the fact that they didn’t do so is revealing. Typical comments included: “We do not wish to reply to your enquiry as we are not subject to the FOIA legislation” (Midland Heart); “As Wirral Partnership Homes LTD does not fall under the Freedom of Information Act we are not obligated to respond to your enquiry”; “Great Places Housing Group is not a public body under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act and is not under any obligation to respond to requests made under this legislation”; “Our client is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act and is therefore not obliged to answer a request made under that Act” (solicitor for Genesis Housing Group to a person who had been evicted)
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HelenaDove Wed 26-Sep-18 00:04:58

"Public service contractors

The bill would also allow the public to see information held by contractors about public services they provide including social care, health, public transport, parking enforcement, school inspections and privately run prisons.

Information held by a contractor is only available under FOI where the contract entitles the public authority concerned to obtain that information from the contractor. Where the contract does not, the information is not accessible under FOI. Examples of contractor-held information refused under FOI include:

The number of complaints from the public against court security officers provided by G4S and the number of officers charged with offences.
the number of prison staff at HMP Birmingham and the number of attacks at the prison. Also held only by G4S.
information about rehabilitation projects at HMP Bronzefield, near Ashfield in Surrey, run by Sodexo.
the value of penalty fares issued on the London Overground and Docklands Light Railway by private sector inspectors.
the costs of bringing TV licensing prosecutions, which is held by Capita and not known to the BBC.
whistleblowing policies applying to Virgin Care staff providing NHS services.
the number of employees providing outsourced services for Brent Council employed on ‘zero hours’ contracts
the numbers of parking tickets issued, then cancelled on appeal, by Islington traffic wardens offered Argos points as incentives to issue tickets by NCP Ltd.

The bill would require contractors to supply authorities with information to answer FOI requests regardless of what the contract says. Public authorities would then be able and required to answer FOI requests made to them for information about their contracted out services as well as those which they provide directly.

Local Safeguarding Children Boards

These multi-agency bodies co-ordinate and develop policies for child protection in every local authority area but are not subject to FOI. They include representatives of social services, the police, the NHS, education bodies and others, but FOI requests to those bodies for information about a safeguarding board’s work are refused. The information is said to be held purely on behalf of the board itself and not used for the authority’s own purposes. Bringing safeguarding boards under FOI would allow more access to information about their work to deal with child abuse, domestic violence, female genital mutilation and the protection of children from extremism.

A draft of the Freedom of Information (Contractors Etc) Bill can be found here.
[1] Request made in July 2009 to Paddington Churches Housing Association, now part of Genesis Housing Group.

[2] Request in October 2012 to Genesis Housing Group

[3] Request in December 2016 to Great Places Housing Group

[4] Request in January 2014 to Yorkshire Housing

[5] Request in August 2012 to Genesis Housing Group.

[6] Request in March 2016 to Thirteen Group

[7] Request in September 2015 to Halton Housing Trust

[8] Request in September 2016 to Wirral Partnership Homes Ltd

[9] Request in May 2013 to Affinity Sutton

[10] Request in April 2014 to Peabody Trust

[11] Request in March 2017 to Amicus Horizon

[12] Request in October 2011 to Midland Heart

[13] Request in February 2015 to Place for People Group Ltd

[14] Request in May 2017 to Great Places Housing Group

[15] Request in 2011 to Peabody Trust. Job descriptions are regularly published when a job is advertised and not regarded as the post-holder’s personal information under the Data Protection"

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HelenaDove · 02/10/2018 15:47


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HelenaDove · 13/10/2018 15:22

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HelenaDove Sat 13-Oct-18 15:15:19

i dont know why the link is showing the wrong title.

"Grenfell refurb details 'kept secret to protect commercial interests'

Demand for information from landlord was denied to protect contractor, inquiry told

A Grenfell Tower resident’s demand for information from his landlord about how decisions were being made about the building’s refurbishment was dismissed to protect the “commercial interests” of the contractor Rydon, it has emerged.

In September 2014, almost three years before the disaster that claimed 72 lives, Ed Daffarn made a request under the Freedom of Information Act to see the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation monthly minutes about the refurbishment project, including input from Rydon and the architecture firm Studio E. The request was refused because release might “prejudice the commercial interests of the contractor”.
Grenfell: the 72 victims, their lives, loves and losses
Read more

On Wednesday Daffarn told the inquiry into the disaster that the minutes could have revealed that two months earlier zinc cladding had been swapped for combustible plastic-filled cladding, which leaked emails have shown saved the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea almost £300,000.

“If we had seen that they had replaced non-combustible materials with combustible materials we could have publicised it and campaigned against it,” he said. “I didn’t have the information I needed to know just how unsafe our homes really were. The thought that if I had been given this information I could have done something about it continues to cause me anguish.”

Daffarn complained separately to the landlord that residents were not asked about the type of cladding and that they had not seen samples of new windows, newly released emails show.

The tenant management organisation (TMO) said residents had been consulted, but Daffarn told the inquiry: “As far as I can see, we were only ever informed about the zinc product. The fact that the product was changed, and the reasons for the change, were withheld from us.”

The cheaper combustible cladding was instrumental in spreading the fire, experts have told the inquiry, and it has been banned by the government on residential buildings more than 18 metres tall

Several of the bereaved and survivors giving evidence have complained about the way the refurbishment was handled. Daffarn claimed that the TMO had threatened to “smash down the door” of any tenant or leaseholder that failed to cooperate, but this was denied by the TMO.
Guardian Today: the headlines, the analysis, the debate - sent direct to you
Read more

Earlier on Wednesday Samuel Daniels, whose disabled father, Joseph Daniels, died in the fire, described the relationship between residents and Rydon as “toxic”. He told the inquiry it was clear the project was “designed to benefit those looking at the block, not those of us who were living in it”.

Daniels described how firefighters who tried to save his father appeared not to be wearing breathing apparatus and had to abandon the mission amid confusion about the layout of the building. He said they turned back “totally petrified” from an attempt to save his father who he had left on the 16th floor flat because he was disorientated and could not be persuaded to leave. Joseph Daniels was found dead in the lobby outside his flat.

“They could not tell which floors they were on as there were no signs,” he said. “I ran with the firemen, and it felt like I was running away from my father.”

He described how fire alarms that worked before the refurbishment did not go off and that for at least 30 minutes he smelled smoke but did not try to evacuate because he heard no alarm

When he got to the base of the blazing tower he looked up and felt sure his father was dead, he said.
Grenfell survivors tell how they ignored advice to 'stay put'
Read more

“I could see countless people in their flats looking out of their windows or hammering on their windows not knowing what to do; sometimes it was entire families,” he said. “People were jumping from their windows.”

Branislav Lukic, who lived on the 11th floor, told the inquiry he went back into his flat to make sure his flatmate made it out, and he rescued Clarita Ghavimi, who he found in a panic on the 10th floor as thick black smoke filled the communal areas. He threw her over his shoulder and took her down to safety.

“I still have feelings of guilt that I was not able to help more people who did not make it out. We lost two people from my floor, and I could not help them when I was escaping the building,” he said.

Describing the smoke and the heat, he said: “I remember what it felt like every day. I am really struggling with my mental health, and am finding it really difficult to cope.”

He said the fire had “made me an entirely different person”.

The inquiry continues."

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HelenaDove · 29/10/2018 15:00


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HelenaDove · 27/01/2019 18:28

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HelenaDove · 11/02/2019 17:49

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HelenaDove · 01/05/2019 23:48


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HelenaDove · 03/05/2019 02:06


"Defects in South Kilburn block results in all occupiers forced to move home

All occupiers of a housing block in South Kilburn will be forced to move out due to “defects” with the building.

Merle Court, a development owned by Catalyst Housing, was built by Willmott Dixon in 2012 as part of the much lauded South Kilburn regeneration project.

Of the 50 occupiers, eight own and rent their homes as part of a shared ownership deal and 42 are social tenants.

They attended a meeting on Tuesday after this paper had gone to press.

The building is clad in aluminium composite material (ACM), similar to the material used to cover Grenfell Tower. In the wake of the fire there in 2017, the Merle Court cladding was deemed safe.

But last year government regulations changed and now the cladding needs to be replaced and other defects dealt with. Catalyst would not say what these were

Writing to residents, the housing association said: “We knew there were other faults within the external walls that required attention, but this new guidance has significantly increased the amount of work needed to Merle Court.

All of the brickwork as well as the cladding will be removed and replaced to enable Catalyst to “rectify defects, replace insulation and undertake other works to the block”. It is expected to take two years.

Some tenants will be offered another Catalyst property while others will have to bid on the council's Locata system.

Catalyst will buy back shared ownership flats at “current market value” but pricing structures where occupiers pay a mortgage and pay rent may impact leaseholders.

Kilburn councillor Abdi Abdirazak said: “We are very concerned about the situation. We are waiting to see whether the relocation and compensation packages meet and fulfil the needs of the leaseholders and tenants.”

He added: “We need to understand why Catalyst hasn't moved on this, particularly as the problem with cladding has been known for some time.”

Pete Firmin, chair of Alpha, Gorfield and Canterbury Residents' Association, added: “There's a big issue about the quality of what's being built in South Kilburn and Brent needs to look at that.”

A Catalyst spokesperson said households would be spoken to individually. “Catalyst is determined to do the right thing, to provide support to everyone in Merle Court during the rehousing process, and ensure residents' rights are protected and no one is left out of pocket as a result of the works.”

There was no comment on why the company did not act earlier."

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HelenaDove · 19/05/2019 18:39


Housing association linked to Grenfell Tower left tenant without light for WEEKS

EXCLUSIVE: London-based Notting Hill Genesis didn't repair one tenant's rotten window for six months and still collected rent from one tenant for five years after he died

A housing association that was slammed for failing to fix a fire door in Grenfell Tower has been accused by tenants of making their lives a misery.

Notting Hill Genesis is riddled with ­incompetence, they say.

One 86-year-old resident was left without lights for eight weeks. Another waited six months for a boarded-up window to be replaced.

The giant London-based group even collected rent totalling £41,504 from one man for five years after he died.

They claimed the bank refused to cancel the standing order without a death certificate which they were ­“unable to obtain”

In another instance NHG collected £26,416 after a tenant had moved out.

It has received almost £7million in overpayments yet to be paid back.

Local MP Emma Dent Coad said: “Overpayments have been noted and brought to their attention and they have failed to repay and apologise. I find that shocking. They have not stepped up.”

The Labour MP warned it was only a matter of time before someone died because of delays in vital repair work.

She claimed NHG warned one tenant not to contact MPs if they wanted repairs done.

Mrs Dent Coad said: “They have a casual attitude to the way they are destroying people’s lives. There is a culture of disdain and bullying from many housing associations at the moment but particularly from Notting Hill Genesis.

“There is a culture of seeing tenants as the little people. They would never see them as serving the tenants who pay their wages.

NHG was criticised at the public inquiry into the 2017 Grenfell fire that killed 72 people for failing to fix a fire door. Police tests found that the 100 fire doors resisted flames for 15 minutes, half the time required by building regulations.

The Sunday People spoke to tenants who ­accused NHG, a registered charity, of being slow to carry out repairs.

In the shadow of Grenfell, Patricia Bishop, 50, a school caterer, spent almost eight weeks over Christmas with no mains lights after a leak in an upstairs flat shorted the electrics.

She said the leak was not fixed for two years.

Ms Bishop, who is the sole carer for her father Julius, 86, said: “My father couldn’t see to wash himself or clean himself after he’d been in the toilet.”

She added: “When our upstairs neighbour has a bath, her used water runs into my bathroom. One time I was in the bath and had to jump out because all this dirty water ran down on top of me.

“I now have a system with the lady above us, where she tells me when she is having a bath and I keep out of my bathroom.”

Molly Ayton, 65, an NHG ­tenant in Maida Vale, said that when her window became rotten it was boarded up for six months without a replacement

On another occasion, fist-sized lumps or mortar fell down from a flat above on to her path.

She said: “No Notting Hill Genesis properties around here have had cyclical repairs for 24 years. They look shabby and dirty from the outside.”

NHG, which looks after 64,000 homes, apologised for delayed ­repairs and said the leak affecting Ms Bishop had been fixed.

It has denied refusing to fix properties of tenants who complained to MPs.

A spokesman said: “We respect completely their right to seek help from an MP or councillor.”

Last year it emerged NHG overcharged ­residents at flats in Maida Vale by more than £85,000 for cleaning bills.

They have repaid the cash after admitting they charged for five days a week cleaning when there had only been one clean per week.

NHG, which received £800million of public money in the last ten years, said housing ­benefit overpayments were always paid back to ­councils.

The group states that its mission is to “house London’s working poor, providing them with a home in which to build themselves and their families a secure future”

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