If this wasn’t such a serious issue – the abject FAILURE of Bristol City Council’s senior ranks to obey the law and find an appropriate place of safety for a young mum who has been the victim of sickening domestic violence – then the inept way council officers have attempted to QUIETLY BRIEF against ‘Ms X’ to councillors and others would be funny.
Today, though, they’ve come out into the open with a statement attributed to “a Bristol City Council spokesman” explaining that, err, they think it’s all Ms X’s fault!
We dissect it line-by-line below…
We take very seriously people experiencing domestic violence or abuse. It is a high priority within our rehousing policy, and we have a number of protocols with Next Link and the police.
On her initial approach to the council, Ms X was offered a place in a refuge or safe house by both the council and Next Link…
…Which Ms X very clearly said from the outset she could not accept, for the very pertinent reasons she articulated then and now…
…was offered a lock-change service, and was also offered help to find a new private tenancy. She declined these offers…
…having noted that a private tenancy would give much less chance of security than a local authority or other social housing property, and be considerably more expensive!
She applied to Home Choice to go on the housing register. Unfortunately…
Now there’s an interesting word, “unfortunately”…
…there was then a delay in assessing her place on the housing register…
By “delay” they actually mean that managers within BCC repeatedly failed her – at a time when there were real dangers to her physical wellbeing from her abuser, who continued to contact her, and she most needed to be in a place of safety rather than wading through the quagmire of council red tape.
…which is not acceptable.
No, it’s not acceptable. It wasn’t acceptable three months ago when it happened, nor two months ago, one month ago or even one week ago.
We apologise wholeheartedly…
“Wholeheartedly” – a nice, cosy, emotional word to imply that ‘hey, we have hearts too!’ Except, of course, they’re sitting in their comfortable offices enjoying their management perks whilst making what in effect are life-and-death decisions about the likes of Ms X.
…for this and we are reviewing how this happened.
Note that they have only apologised NOW, after being embarrassed in public – is that really an apology worth having?
Ms X was placed on the register in Band 3, a priority band which includes other victims of domestic abuse, homelessness cases and others urgently needing to move…
Of course that begs the question, if people being threatened with serious physical, sexual or emotional abuse are not the most preeminent concern, then who is? Managers’ mates?
She has been bidding on properties, but unfortunately has been restricting her selection of property type and location…
Aha! There’s that word “unfortunately” again! Note that the statement uses the same word to describe something that the council did – the “delay” in properly processing the housing application – and something that Ms X did. That suggests that they are comparable: ‘we were a little wrong, you were a little wrong’.
Except what the council did was make an error that is in their own words “not acceptable”; what Ms X did was make a choice about what was most suitable for her and her child.
Let’s have another look at Bristol City Council’s own policy on Domestic Abuse: “[Don’t] Pressurise an individual into a specific course of action… [Don’t] Be judgmental of the individual’s choices and actions”. Seems pretty clear.
And yet this statement attempts to suggest that if the original banding was a mistake, then so if Ms X not wanting to be forced into unsuitable housing. It puts her exercise of free choice on a par with the potentially life-threatening mistakes of senior council officers – could there be anything more judgmental (or offensive) than that?
Had she bid on all suitable properties there are 11 that have been advertised,
Note that there is not even an attempt to actually discuss the quality or suitability of those properties – do you not wonder why?
…and since her application was placed in Band 3 she would have been the successful bidder.
And guess what: there’s no way anyone could verify this! In other words, they’re making stuff up as they go along.
Either that or they’ve got a really good crystal ball up at City Hall. Perhaps Mayor Fergo could use it to place a bet at Paddy Power on a rank outsider to win – then he won’t need to cut the budget for things like rehousing vulnerable people…
Ms X has a support worker at Next Link, and the Safer Bristol…
In case you were unaware, the ‘Safer Bristol Partnership’ is a multi-agency quango managed by, erm, Bristol City Council!
…domestic abuse coordinator has reviewed the case.
And who is this mysterious, all-seeing, all-knowing wise person? Have they met with Ms X? Are they a Bristol City Council employee or from another agency? Name them!
Their conclusion is that all agencies have done what they should have.
Now that is a real surprise! But, um, by “all agencies” they can’t possibly mean to include Bristol City Council, can they?
Presumably not, seeing as BCC is an organisation which even by its own admission FAILED to properly band Ms X in the first place. It also WASTED three months, IGNORED Ms X’s wishes to not be dumped in a refuge, and has used THREATS – such as exposing her full identity to the mainstream media, withdrawing all possibility of housing support, and briefing inaccurate information to those who have shown an interest in the case.
…in order to help.
If that all counts as “help” then heaven help those you really don’t like!
We continue to offer on-going support and the case is a priority.
Hang on, did you say “the case is a priority”? If that’s true, why has the council never said that to Ms X, either verbally or in correspondence?
Overall, the whole statement reeks of desperation. This whole sorry affair began more than three months ago. The BRISTOLIAN has been reporting on it for five days.
Yet the best this motley crew of management mediocrities and self-styled ‘communications gurus’ could come up with were some half-baked half-truths, the odd smear, and a bunch of wildly inaccurate claims.
Shameful, pathetic, beneath contempt.