Homeless family - council rapped

SOCIAL services were today accused of not doing enough to provide accommodation for a homeless family of seven while a house is found for them.Brian and Tracy Heppell and their five children have been homeless since before Christmas, sleeping on the floors of friends' and relatives' homes.

By Richard Cornwell

SOCIAL services were today accused of not doing enough to provide accommodation for a homeless family of seven while a house is found for them.

Brian and Tracy Heppell and their five children have been homeless since before Christmas, sleeping on the floors of friends' and relatives' homes.

They were incensed when social services staff told them they should bring their five-berth 16ft caravan from Norfolk to a site at Hacheston and sleep in that until a property became available.

But the Coastal Homeless Action Group (CHAG) claims the county council is shirking its duties and trying to save cash when it should be paying for temporary accommodation for the Heppells.

Shasha Toptani, housing manager for CHAG, said: "There was obviously bed and breakfast accommodation available because Suffolk Coastal council had placed the family in an hotel.

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"The important question was why did social services simply not continue funding them there?

"Why are the family now forced to sleep on floors or in a caravan when the government says that they should be accommodated by social services and have given social services the jurisdiction and funding to do this?"

CHAG has been working hard to find Mr Heppell, 42, and his 34-year-old wife and their children – Kelly, 14, Katie, 13, Tony, 12, Cody, ten, and Toby, seven – somewhere to live.

However, the size of the family means there are few suitable properties for rent available and the issue is taking time to resolve.

Chris Lane, Suffolk County Council spokesman for social care services, said: "Families that are found to be intentionally homeless by the housing authority can face extra difficulties.

"Where there are children involved Suffolk County Council's social care services will work with the family and other agencies to help find accommodation so that children's needs are met and are not at risk.

"Several social workers have been working extremely hard to find this family accommodation quickly. Suffolk County Council does not have a stock of houses or a housing budget and in a situation such as this there are no easy solutions.

"Although we work to support families, the responsibility for finding accommodation and meeting the terms of a tenancy is one for individuals."

The Heppells had to vacate their last home in the Woodbridge area because the landlord wanted his property empty. However, their court action to secure a stay of execution had the effect of making the family "intentionally homeless" when they were forced to leave.

The family was put into bed and breakfast accommodation in an Ipswich hotel for 28 days but Suffolk Coastal had no further obligation to help them.

n What do you think? Write to Evening Star Letters, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or email EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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