How we're supporting people in need during Covid Susan Susan is a young woman who contacted us after she was refused Universal Credit at the beginning of the lockdown due to Covid-19. She was living in a housing association tenancy but had no money to pay rent or bills, or to buy essential food or other items. Through a public law challenge on human rights grounds we helped Susan receive the support she was entitled to. She had been claiming Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) successfully for years despite suffering from ongoing health issues which made it very difficult for her to gain employment in the line of work that she had done previously. This year she was advised by the job centre to change her claim to Universal Credit which she did. It was this claim that was refused. When we met Susan, her internet had been disconnected and she had no funds for her mobile phone so she could not make calls. Her landlord had issued a notice seeking possession based upon rent arrears. She was able to receive food parcels, but the parcels were for the most part tinned/dried food and not suitable to live on in the long term. She had no money to pay prescription fees in order to access her essential medicine to manage her health conditions. She had no money to buy PPE or disinfectant to protect herself from the Covid-19 outbreak. She had no money to buy toiletries, not even toilet roll. She was effectively living in inhumane and degrading conditions. Susan had requested a mandatory reconsideration of her Universal Credit refusal, but this was unsuccessful; she had also submitted an appeal and asked for it to be expedited, but the current appeal system for benefit meant that it would take 12 months for an appeal to be heard by a tribunal. When a request is made for expedition the process becomes faster, but still takes at least seven weeks for the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) to prepare the appeal submissions and can then take significant time for a tribunal to be heard. It could take at least two and a half months for an expedited appeal to hear her case and, in the meantime, she was living in impossible conditions. Using knowledge and skills from both our welfare benefits and public law teams, we advised the client that her circumstances justified a court challenge to the DWP because it was unjust for her to wait a further two and a half months in such difficult circumstances. We helped her to start the judicial review process by sending a detailed letter before action. When the DWP failed to respond we helped her to seek legal aid funding to issue a claim for judicial review which was granted. At that stage the DWP agreed to reconsider their position and made payments of Universal Credit to our client backdated to the start of the claim. Tunde Tunde is a single father with a five year old son. He has lived in the UK for many years since coming here on a student visa but currently has no recourse to public funds. Until the Covid-19 lockdown he had regular work to support himself and his son, but since the pandemic he had found it impossible to find work and he and his son were destitute and at serious risk of becoming street homeless. Tunde was put in contact with the helpline by the Early Help team at Hillfields Hub who were very concerned for the family. Our first response was to liaise with the team to find out more information before advising them to urgently contact the Homeless Prevention Team or Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub on Tunde’s behalf. We established that Tunde and his son had been sofa surfing but were no longer welcome where they had been staying and were struggling to feed themselves. We also established that his immigration status was complex. He is the sole carer of a child with British nationality which gives him a set of rights that were not being upheld. As the day progressed, no accommodation had yet been found for Tunde and his son. Tunde asked us to intervene on his behalf as he was become increasingly upset and worried about where he and his son would sleep that night. He told us that they would have to sleep under a bridge if no accommodation was secured. We encouraged Tunde to keep speaking to the local authority agencies and eventually the out-of-hours team was persuaded to find him accommodation for that night. Unfortunately, before this offer could be communicated to Tunde, his phone battery had died. We do not know where he and his son slept that night and Tunde was not willing to tell us when we made contact with him in the morning. We organised a taxi to take him and his son to the accommodation. Our next step was to refer him to our immigration team where he can access specialist advice for free. This will enable him to access the welfare benefits that he and his son are entitled to while he cannot work. In the meantime, we have liaised with social care to arrange free school meal vouchers and the right support until his immigration status is resolved. Ahmed Ahmed is in his twenties and was previously on probation. He also struggles with his mental health. Previously he had suffered from drug addiction but is in recovery and had managed to continue to abstain upon being released from prison. Ahmed was determined to turn his life around but this became even more of a challenge when he found himself street homeless after being thrown out of his accommodation by the relative he was staying with. Ahmed approached our Housing Team in the height of the pandemic after receiving our details from one of his friends. Due to Ahmed’s living situation he was relying on friends to charge his phone, which had enabled him to contact us. Ahmed was struggling with rough sleeping and complying with public health regulations. Although the local authority were providing assistance for rough sleepers, they were charging a fee which Ahmed could not afford. Ahmed was attempting to make a homelessness application but was struggling to provide this evidence to the local authority due to the implications of lockdown. As a result, Ahmed approached the Law Centre who provided advice and guidance on homelessness applications. The Law Centre were successful in obtaining the supporting evidence Ahmed needed for his application. The Law Centre approached the local authority with evidence that Ahmed had ‘priority need’ on account of his vulnerability as an ex-prisoner and due to his mental health struggles. The Law Centre reminded the local authority of the relevant threshold required to trigger the interim accommodation duty. Thus, accommodation was provided promptly which meant that Ahmed was no longer at risk of homelessness. The Law Centre remained in communication with Ahmed about the development of his case and provided timely advice which enabled him to query delays in the progress of his application with the local authority. The local authority has since completed their inquiries and found that Ahmed was owed the ‘main housing duty’, meaning he will now receive an offer of long-term accommodation.