An emotionally drained Leighton-Linslade mother says Central Beds Council has “played God” with her family’s lives, claiming she and her two children were unfairly made homeless.
Kerry Roblett is furious that social services has said placing her girls in foster care is the only help they can give while she tries to successfully bid for a property.
Kerry, 43, and her two daughters, Rhianna, 15, and Annamarie, 8, are staying on different friends’ sofas after they were evicted from their temporary council accommodation near Soulbury Road on August 15.
The mother-of-two, who has sought help from South West Beds MP Andrew Selous, claims that the council had offered her a permanent place to live in some flats on Plum Tree Lane, near town, but that it did not properly explain to her that declining the offer would make her homeless with the council no longer prepared to offer alternative properties – forcing her to bid with many others for whatever homes became available across the district.
She alleges: “Between 2006 and 2010 I lived in that block of flats and experienced various issues with other tenants - drugs, noise, loud music, bullying - and it led me to suffer severe depression and anxiety.
“So, this year, when CBC offered me the same flat block, I declined the offer - there was no way I could go back!
“I did not realise that my declining this flat would lead to me being ‘discharged’ from their duty of housing me. I only discovered this when I received their letter advising that I was being evicted on August 14.
“I appealed this, and thought the eviction date would therefore be postponed. However, on August 15 at midday there was this banging on the door! ‘Kerry, it’s Central Bedfordshire Council, can you let us in, we need to talk to you.’
“I was scared and let them in. My kids were home and I collapsed on the floor crying, saying ‘where am I to go?’”
When Kerry had moved away from the flats in Plum Tree Lane in 2010, she rented until her landlord sold the property earlier this year.
Unable to find anywhere else because other landlords “were not accepting tenants on benefits”, in February CBC placed her temporarily at Frances Court, Soulbury Road, where she was happy.
However, after she turned down their permanent offer of the Plum Tree Lane town flats and appealed the eviction, she claims she received a letter (before August 14) saying her appeal had been declined, although she alleges that the letter made no mention at all of when the impending eviction date would be, leading her to believe it had been postponed.
She claimed: “On the day of the eviction, we were advised to pack an overnight bag and go down to the Dunstable council offices.
“CBC then came in the room where me and my girls had been waiting for hours, only to be told they couldn’t do anything; it had gone too far – because I declined the offer – and I was no longer with CBC.
“All social services could do was place my children into foster care - not an option!
“I spent hours frantically ringing round my friends for help. My oldest daughter hasn’t coped at all, and it has made my youngest so clingy; she won’t leave my side.
“I need to take stronger medication and I wake up in the middle of the night with anxiety.”
The mobile hairdresser is also furious about the reasons why CBC turned down the appeal, which she made because of her past experiences at the flats and because her mental health could be affected if she went back. She claimed: “The council said I am not currently on strong enough medication - how much do they want me to take?
“They also said I had only ever logged one complaint when living there. But there were issues every day; what were the council really going to do!?”
A Central Beds Council spokeswoman, said: “When Ms Roblett approached the council as homeless in February we placed her in temporary accommodation.
“We offered her permanent accommodation at Plum Tree Lane which she refused. An independent review investigated Ms Roblett’s concerns and did not uphold them - agreeing that the property was both suitable and reasonable for her needs.
“We are still supporting Ms Roblett as she can still apply for social housing through the bidding system and we can support her if she finds private rented accommodation too.
“We will continue to support Ms Roblett to bid for properties but will not be allocating another, since Plum Tree Lane was turned down.”
However, Kerry still claims that the council told her she had been removed from their Housing Register and was not able to bid for properties.
She alleges that her bidding app didn’t work after she was evicted and that it came up with an ‘alert’ saying she was suspended.
The CBC spokeswoman added: “We apologise if Ms Roblett was informed she was off the bidding list. Ms Roblett is able to bid for available properties.”
After CBC told the LBO that Kerry was still on the Housing Register, the LBO contacted Kerry, who said the app was now working again, but claimed no-one from CBC had been in touch to tell her.
She argued: “The whole system has been so wrong. I’ve never taken drugs, and always paid my bills.
“I’m one of the good guys but they have played God with my family.”
Kerry and her daughters are still living on friends’ sofas and the mother claims the only bidding options are in Sandy, Flitwick, and Bedford - no good for her children’s schools come September and away from her hairdressing customers.
Mr Selous said: “When this case was raised with me I immediately raised it with Central Bedfordshire Council. I wish I had been able to provide advice earlier as I always advise constituents very strongly to accept the offer of a property made to them under homelessness legislation.
“Almost invariably, constituents are in a much worse situation if they turn a property down at this point. It can be possible to move from a property you are not happy with.
“If you don’t have a tenancy you don’t have that possibility though.”