Council plans to scrap what East End Life says is a “vital link in housing crises”

When David Amery told a packed “No to Con-Dem Cuts” meeting last Thursday about his council service being scrapped, he could call on valuable testimony.

He spoke to Mayor Lutfur Rahman about Tower Hamlets council’s Housing Link, in which he works, which helps people with mental health problems in housing crisis.

It is to be scrapped, no longer taking referrals from February 14 and ceasing to exist in July but Mr Amery pointed to a page from council paper East End Life in his plea for a reprieve.

An issue last December celebrated the ‘vital link in housing crises’ on the occasion of its ten-year anniversary and showed Mr Amery and staff happily cutting a celebratory cake.

Speaking as a UNISON member, he told the audience at the Central Foundation Girls’ School in Bow: “A week later we were told we would be cut.”

It forms part of �70m cuts proposed in the next three years and will save the council �312,000.

The service, based in Old Montague Street, Whitechapel, works with housing associations including Poplar HARCA, Eastend Homes and Tower Hamlets Homes.

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It allows its seven-member team to make sure people with mental health problems don’t face eviction and can help them to address rent arrears and access benefits.

Contact is maintained with individuals through regular meetings – Mr Amery estimated 600 people are kept on file and 170 people a year are helped.

Phil Carlson, 44, of Globe Road, suffered a breakdown when losing his job in the council’s recruitment department last year.

Housing Link helped him gain housing benefits and sort out his rent problems.

He said: “I’m shocked the mayor would consider scrapping it.

“He is saying to people in the community ‘I don’t care.’”

Trevor White, 53, of Commercial Road, has been with the service for nine years and was supported when facing an eviction in court last year when he owed �2000.

He said: “When you go about getting housing and council tax benefit, it can be like hitting a brick wall.”

A council spokesman says housing support for vulnerable people will still be provided through Community Mental Health teams, a housing advice service and the LookAhead support service.