Barry woman with rare condition 'has no right to stay in home' - Vale Council

First published in News

A BARRY woman diagnosed with a rare medical condition and undergoing heart surgery has been told by the Vale Council that she has no legal right to remain in her childhood home.

Grandmother-of-seven Christine Kaged, who lives in Aneurin Place with her 72-year-old husband and 12-year-old grandson, had moved from her own Vale Council property into her father's council-owned three-bedroom property to look after him when he became ill.

But following his death in November, she was told that her father Joss Hopkins had exercised the one automatic succession on the property following his wife's (Christine's mother's) death in August 2005, and therefore she could not 'inherit' it.

Disabled Christine, 58, who suffers from Bechet's - a rare condition requiring regular treatment and medication - and is under investigation for vascular disease and angina, was told by the local authority in writing on January 8 that she would get one reasonable offer of "more appropriately sized alternative accommodation".

The housing officer's letter stated: "I would strongly advise you to accept any offer made as the Council will only make one reasonable offer to you before seeking possession."

But she says husband Thomas has to occupy a separate bedroom to avoid aggravating her medical condition, and her grandson lives with the couple to ensure continuity in his secondary school education. They also have two dogs and two cats.

Mrs Kaged, a council tenant for 26 years who grew up in the Aneurin Place house, says she advised the Council in 2005 that she would like to take over the tenancy after her mother died, but had held back on acceptance to allow her father to retain his independence. She said the council agreed she could move in with him, as a main full-time carer with husband Thomas, in view of his poor health.

But following her father's death on November 11, she was informed the family must leave - despite her GP and hospital consultants supporting her case to remain on medical grounds.

Christine said: "In 2005, as I was still grieving for my mother, I did not feel strong enough to cope with two properties or to see my father go into a nursing home.

"The Aneurin Road property was not at its best and it cost us £5,500 to refit a new kitchen as the walls were crumbling and soaking wet.

"The council would not help us make repairs, although we had to submit plans to the council for the work.

"Before vacating the old property in Falcon Road, the council also asked us if we would leave all our carpets, curtains and light fittings for the new tenants."

She said that a housing officer left a message on her answerphone on the day of her father's funeral (November 21), advising her to urgently make contact regarding vacating the property.

"As you can imagine, this was not a good time," she said.

"However I rang the next day but she was unavailable for the next week.

"I am still trying to sort out my father's affairs, which is a painful thing to deal with. All this added stress and pressure is certainly not helping my condition."

Vale Council operational manager (public housing services), Mike Ingram said the legal basis which allowed family and other relatives to remain in the family home following the death of a parent was contained within the Housing Act, and states that when a sole secure tenant dies, the tenancy may be passed on to a 'qualified' successor, provided there has been no previous succession to the tenancy.

"Where there has been a previous succession there can be no further succession," he said.

"The Vale of Glamorgan allocation policy does not prioritise second successions. Therefore Mrs Kaged has no basis legally, or within policy, to be considered for the tenancy of the dwelling.

"The council has more than 2,800 applicants registered for housing in the Vale and all applicants have an equal right for consideration for vacancies as they occur," he added.

"In the situation of Mrs Kaged, the family would not be considered for a three bedroom home due to the make-up of family and the impact of the forthcoming welfare reforms."

As of April this year, couples or family members required to sleep apart will be entitled to one bedroom between them, added Mr Ingram.

"This is in line with guidance issued by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP)," he said.

"Bedroom allocation is a matter for the DWP as policy changes to housing benefit falls within their control and not the council’s. The council's role is to implement the provisions set out by the DWP.

"The Kaged family, which comprises of Mr and Mrs Kaged and their grandson, would be entitled to a two bedroom home under the conditions of April's welfare reforms," he added.

"The council has agreed to suspend further action pending Mrs Kaged's surgery, and will continue to discuss suitable options with the family following her recovering."

Court ward councillor Richard Bertin, who has been acting on Mrs Kaged's behalf, said: "I appreciate that rules are rules but I am sure that the Vale Council could help Christine under special circumstances.

"She gave up a council property to care for her father, saving the authority thousands of pounds. On top of that she is having heart surgery, so I now call on housing to go that extra mile to help her."

Vale MP Cairns, who was made aware of the case last month, said he had written to the council to ask if they were in a position to review matters, given the circumstances.

He said: "Mrs Kaged disputes the Vale Council’s claims over the transfer of tenancy and I am determined to get to the bottom of it. The uncertainty is affecting Mrs Kaged’s health. This is unacceptable and I will do all I can to help."

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