Or how ‘current arrangements’ are palpably failing almshouse residents
Note that these are disputes which were extant at the inception of this website. For subsequent incidents and updates you should go to the News page. To continue:
When we Google <almshouse +eviction> we get 51,800 results. Even combing out historicals and repeats, that seems to raise disturbing questions. The following disputes have come to our notice – entirely due to press publicity:-
The William Woodsend Memorial Homes/Nottingham Community Housing Association
Here the Association took over the almshouses when the trust became insolvent.
At the time, the two remaining residents were assured by the former trustees “[we] feel sure you will be well looked after by the NCHA”. …However, NCHA has carried out only limited maintenance since then and, earlier this year, it wrote to the two tenants, aged 88 and 94 years, to inform them £20,000 of urgent work was needed and they would have to leave.
In accordance with their iniquitous ‘rights’ under charity law (and in apparent contravention of their obligations under the Housing Act 1985, Schedule 2 Part II Ground 11), the new trustees initially made no offer of alternative accommodation. This dispute was satisfactorily resolved but not before much anguish must have been caused to the elderly licensees.
The Lady Margaret Hungerford Almshouses, Corsham, Wilts. (August 2010)
This is a case where the trustees sought to impose upon the residents’ environs an inappropriate building despite a suitable alternative site being available nearby. The residents were obliged to band together with others to frustrate the trustees’ intentions.
Fortunately for the residents, planning law was on their side. Planning law is one of the few legal sanctions remaining to almshouse residents whereby they can frustrate the cavalier intentions of autocratic trustee bodies.
Anchor Trust re Hopton’s Almshouses in Bankside, London (July 2011)
This is a case where the trustees sought to transfer 11 almshouses to another trustee body, viz.:
“If we were council tenants we would get a vote on the transfer,” said 88-year-old Henry Holsgrove. “If we were housing association tenants the regulator could stop the transfer. But because we live in an almshouse, Anchor can ignore the results of its own consultation and, we feel, sell the roofs over our heads. We want a choice. We want someone who cares for us, not someone who frightens us.” His wife, Alison Holsgrove, added: “Now I have reached this time of my life I thought it would be sunshine and roses. Now it is all full of fear and trepidation.”
We are not involved but are otherwise of the opinion that the residents would be advised to opt for whichever destination is the greater constrained by Human Rights.
The Lady Ann Morton Almshouses, Kidlington, Oxon.
Marilyn Brown and her partner David Brookes have been slung out of the Lady Ann Morton almshouses at Kidlington in Oxfordshire. Their offence? Feeding the birds. It was alleged that feeding our feathered friends encouraged ‘vermin’ – despite the fact that four independent surveys in the preceding year determined its absence (howsoever it may be defined). As Marilyn Brown despairingly said at the time: “As only licensees we knew we had no rights”.
Jesus Hospital almshouses, Bray
This is a complex of historic almshouses in Buckinghamshire which has been in the trusteeship of a venerable London livery company, The Fishmongers Company, since 1627. Bray has accommodation for 21 residents in separate bungalows.
In 2009 the trustees aspired to relinquish their trusteeship to Bristol Charities. In their turn, Bristol Charities aspired to close the complex and transfer the residents to a ‘multi storey almshouse’ in a more urban environment and which would house around 50 residents. It would have been a care home rather than an almshouse.
One of the current residents has lived there for 32 years. She has no rights if Jesus Hospital is closed or sold, despite being near her family and friends at present. There is no legal obligation for the new ‘almshouse’ to be built in Bray or nearby, or to house the current residents together. Were the closure and sale to go ahead, most will be moved away from their existing support networks.
Fortunately, a satisfactory resolution seems to have been achieved; but only after a campaign fronted by Sir Michael Parkinson no less and encompassing a PR consultant and a top city law firm. Hopefully, Jesus Hospital will henceforth continue to do what its historical benefactors intended without further cavalier designs on the part of the present trustees.
The concept of companion animals for the elderly has yet to dawn in Tring.
A CHARITY in charge of almshouse accommodation has told a 60-year-old woman – who broke the rules by replacing the dog she moved in with – that she will be evicted. Tring Charities has given Jackie Hurley and her labrador cross Digby until September 1 to leave her home at Ash Road in Tring. Mrs Hurley moved into the house with her previous dog Dash in March 2007, before he died in June 2009. Since then, she has taken in Digby after a relative was not able to look after him, but the charity says this goes against the rules. Read the full story in this week’s Berkhamsted & Tring Gazette, out tomorrow (Wednesday, May 4).
“I cannot understand the ferocity with which the threats of eviction have been expressed.” So says the beleaguered resident. This dispute has been unsatisfactorily resolved by the resident having been intimidated into giving up her dog to a relative; a clear violation of Article 8 and Protocol 1, Article 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the concomitant sections of the UK Human Right Act 1988.
The Queen Elizabeth Almshouses, Greenwich
Posted 13/01/10 – The QE Almshouses – administered by the Drapers Company – have stood on Greenwich High Road since 1821 – later being joined by Lambard House on Langdale Road in the 1960s. In July 2009 residents were shocked when the Drapers Company informed them that the long-term future of the Almshouses remaining on site they presently occupy in West Greenwich was now in doubt. Residents were informed that they might have to move to unknown destinations with only a years notice. With the active support of residents local Labour Councillors mounted a campaign against the proposals. The campaign generated support far beyond the residents of Greenwich High Road, ultimately amassing more than 1000 signatures. Councillors have met representatives of the Drapers’ Company to discuss the companies’ plans (previously undisclosed to the Council or the local Labour MP Nick Raynsford).
The Drapers’ Company’s plans have now received a set back with the refusal of the Charity Commission to endorse the hoped for merger of three charities which would have facilitated the proposed move and redevelopment. As a result it now appears that the Drapers’ are heading back to the drawing board. Local Labour councillors and Candidates will continue to monitor developments on behalf of Almshouses’ residents and take what action is necessary to defend local residents./unquote
Leighton Buzzard Almshouses – “Tenants up in alms about plans”
Published on Monday 24 October 2011 17:00
TENANTS in Leighton’s historic almshouses are leading a campaign to head off controversial plans to demolish part of a listed boundary wall to provide access to a proposed development behind their homes.
Jennifer Bewick, 63, whose garden is in the firing line, said: “They want to take nine-tenths of my garden which is what I really furious about. I’ve been doing the garden since I moved in and now the trust, which owns the almshouses, says that the garden was never mine but they’ve never sent anyone else to look after it.”
[Another resident] said that tenants would lose their parking allocation behind their homes and vital parking spaces in front of the properties. The tenants also fear that building houses and/or flats close to their homes would lead to loss of light, security and privacy. “Most of the residents of the almshouses are in their senior years,” she said. “And the purpose of these houses is to provide a safe, quiet and secure environment for both the vulnerable and elderly residents.”
The scheme will be decided by Central Beds Council.
Of course they are not tenants but licensees bereft, like ourselves, of legal remedy. The reportage does not tell us if the trustees are the prime movers but they certainly seem to be compliant with or acquiescent to the contentious planning application.
Law Memorial Houses, North Devon
Last referenced on August 11 2011, this is another case where those vaunted “present arrangements” that “appear to work well” are clearly failing almshouse residents. We quote verbatim from the latter website:-
“These almshouses and the residents herein have in fact been neglected for many many years. The others did not dare to complain lest they might be evicted. Nobody wanted to rock the boat and nothing changed. However, I started asking questions about the maintenance of the buildings and obtained copies of the accounts of the Trust from the Charity Commission.
That was when the harassment started. How dare I, a lowly pensioner who had fallen on hard times, question the behaviour of the so-called ‘pillar of the local community’.
One who groomed his reputation as a charitable man? I was naive I did not realise that many ‘do-gooders’ do no good at all. Their pretence of being good upstanding citizens is but a façade. Often the real reason for their involvement is personal gain and greed.
I had encountered problems with flooding from the flat above in November 2002 but no reparations to the damage incurred were ever forthcoming. I didn’t realise things would only get worse.
I was subjected to a long and vicious course of harassment and intimidation where those who know how to play the system branded me the victim as ‘a nuisance neighbour’. The Trust did nothing to protect me from the real nuisance neighbour above me for 4 long years. I believe they thought it was in their interest to see me suffer and hoped I would be hounded out so I could not question things further.
My nuisance neighbour was cautioned in 2007 for several offences against me but not removed from residence for a further 13 months! The local constabulary refused to acknowledge that the incidents were related so they could escape applying the Protection from Harassment Act. They insisted each incident was to be counted individually and not as a course of action. Now just whose side do you think the police were on – a pensioner with no assets or a local solicitor with an office on the square? Make no mistake the police do take sides! I have learned that to my cost.
I have been let down by the Department for Communities, The Charity Commission and my police force. No-one saw fit to put an end to the injustice and the ensuing misery I was suffering.
It appears that UK law offers no protection to residents housed by a small charitable Trust, which does not legally have to register as a Social Landlord. The Charity Commission fails to regulate these Trusts, just dishing out weak advice when they themselves are taken to task. Therefore a small Trust is not accountable to anyone but their own Trustees – how cosy and safe that makes them. Untouchable in law!
As a result no-one checks how they use the ‘contributions for maintenance and administration’ paid by or on behalf of the residents! It would appear that my only recourse to this debacle is to take the lack of legislation, which has permitted an intolerable situation to continue, to the European Court of Human Rights. And that is what I intend to do… my fight for justice continues….
Read the rest of my story on www.rebel-for-good-causes.org
Justice will prevail….eventually”
Or so she would wish! The link to the blog is corrupted, allegedly hacked. A warning to ourselves perhaps?
The Thomas White Cottages, Bromsgrove
In March last year a resident felt compelled to write to the council:-
“I disagreed with a change the trustees were going to implement and I was threatened with eviction… Vulnerable elderly people should be given some rights to live in peace with some security; not be bullied and harassed.”
We gather the precipitating issue was delapidations. As we know to our cost, the council are powerless to do anything about the expressed vulnerability of the complainant. Furthermore this case elicited that Local Authorities do not have the power to enforce against Category 1 Hazards, bands A to C (the most serious) as defined by The Housing Act 2004 if the property concerned is an almshouse. They can only adopt a ‘mediation’ role. Yet again – and in this most critical dimension – almshouse residents are outlawed.
Your money or your house…
Winter 2009: seventy-five elderly residents of Coventry’s three estates of almshouses were asked to hand over their Winter Fuel Payment to the trustees. We understand some paid fearful of courting eviction otherwise. At least one overly public spirited resident paid on the understanding that each resident’s periodic Maintenance Contribution was anticipatively decremented by their Winter Fuel Payment, which we doubt would be the case. Unless the trustees can demonstrate otherwise, this seems to have been an opportunistically retrospective imposition.
Much like Child Benefit, the Winter Fuel Payment leaves the public coffers without condition as to its deployment. This attempt by a third party to intercept and sequestrate it could set a damaging precedent. In the absence of further information we cannot pronounce on the merits of the trustees’ stance but we deplore the fact that their licensees have no access to the courts to equitably decide the matter.
In addition to the above there are two specific disputes the details of which we are not at liberty to disclose for as long as an almshouse license remains a license to intimidate; and there are two other disputes of which we have no details. There remains of course the two disputes inherent in the cited court cases of Gray v Taylor and ex parte Baldwin.
Set against a cohort of some 36,000 residents, by any criterion this is a disturbingly high incidence of known disputes. If we factor in just a tenfold concurrence of unpublicised disputes, be they actual evictions or harassment short of eviction, then it certainly cannot be said, as the BRE has done (see later), that “We have no evidence that long established arrangements for almshouse residents do not work well in the vast majority of cases…”
As you might have noticed, publicity is one factor that can dissuade autocratic trustees from a hostile course of action. Planning law apropos residents’ environs is another sanction that can constrain cavalier trustees. Inventive trustees should also be apprehensive of the law of defamation (libel), albeit it is the deeper pocket that tends to carry the day in libel proceedings.
LATEST NEWS: our website has hardly been up’n’running for five minutes before two further cases came rushing out of the woodwork. For as long as an almshouse license remains a license to intimidate we cannot disclose full details, but:
The first case hinted at intimidation by both staff and trustees. We further gather that the trustees are seeking to impose new conditions on established residents.
The second case hinged principally upon delapidations and the significant costs incurred by residents arising from the trustees’ failure to deal properly with those delapidations. We’ll keep you posted.
You cannot but agree that on the above evidence the case for reform is well made. Yet a further dispute clearly inhered in the following proposal put to the Cabinet Office of HM government via The Better Regulation Executive (the BRE). To find out how it was eventually dealt with – or rather sidestepped :-