Family-of-five in one bed flat denied bigger home as council don’t believe sick grandmother lives there

A man living with four other family members in a one bedroom flat claims he was denied accommodation by a council after he applied for a new home on grounds of overcrowding.

Mohammed Harron Shinwari, 35, from the Arnold estate in Druid Street, Bermondsey, has been living in a one bedroom flat with his wife and two sons who are aged five and two since January 2018.

Mr Shinwari said his mother moved in with them in May 2021. His mother suffers from a number of medical conditions and her carer lives across the road from them.

He said: “Me and my wife have our bed and our five year old sleeps there with us, our two year old has a cot and my mother sleeps on the sofa.”

In June 2021, Mr Shinwari submitted an application on the Southwark council Homesearch Bidding Scheme to move into a bigger home.

A housing officer visited Mr Shinwari’s flat to assess the family’s circumstances. In the officers report of the visit she confirmed that she had met Mr Shinwari’s wife, mother and children and seen one room with a bed and a living room with a two seater sofa.

The officer also reported that Mr Shinwari explained that his mother has a bad back and sometimes sleeps on a mattress on the floor, which the officer also saw.

But soon after the visit Mr Shinwari claims his bidding account was shut down. He said he was informed by email that the officer had concluded that there was no physical evidence of the mother living in the house.

Mr Shinwari said: “The officer was very nice but she didn’t ask a single question when she came to look at our home. How can she make this decision without asking any questions?”

He contacted the council to ask what evidence the decision had been based on. His mother receives her bank statements and letters regarding her pension fund to that address and has clothing and shoes in a wardrobe.

He claims he was told that the decision was not open for review.

Mr Shinwari’s bidding account was reopened after two months but he is now only allowed to bid on band three housing, preventing him from getting a home with more than one bedroom. 

He said: “I don’t know what’s going on, they won’t give me any reason why they think my mother doesn’t live with me.

“The flat is still very overcrowded and the council just won’t respond to me anymore.”

Councillor Darren Merrill, cabinet member for council homes, said: “In every case, we have to be completely certain of all the information when reviewing if a resident is entitled to a higher priority and larger bed size.

“With over 17,000 families on our waiting list for a home, it would be unfair and unhelpful to do anything less than ask our fraud and verification team to fully verify a resident’s circumstances.

“They carry out a range of checks depending on the case, sometimes including home visits. Our assessment is based on their information, what the law says, and the requirements of our policies.

“We always explain the outcome to our residents, who can appeal the decision if they wish.”

Pictured top: Mohammed Harron Shinwari with his two children in their home (Picture: Mohammed Harron Shinwari)

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