Leanne Minick plunged from her towerblock bedroom window in Tower Hamlets

I want to extend my most sincere condolences to this family who lost an 8-year old daughter after she fell from her 8th floor bedroom window in a property owned by Old Ford Housing Association.

There are a number of housing management related concerns that I immediately find important to discuss.

As a long-standing social tenant in Tower Hamlets I spent years on trying to improve housing related issues through individual conplaints that were then taken up by the local housing officer and the results of which could have an improving impact on housing management through the whole of Tower Hamlets because social housing then was handled throughout the borough by Tower Hamlets council who owned and managed all the social housing properties throughout this borough.

Since social housing was split up onto housing associations and social housing landlords the situation has drastically changed. I am now restricted to acting within Tower Hamlets Homes because whatever I achieve within Tower Hamlets Homes, in one of their panels stays within Tower Hamlets Homes.

You can see in the about-me section of this site how I, and a group of local residents complaint about the change in housing organisation to no avail.

I distinctly remember having asked at one of the very recent meetings, this year in fact, how well calls to the housing centre are logged because I am not happy about this and that is one of the most disturbing features of the story about that poor 8-year old child, that the neighbour told the East London Advertiser that the mother of the girl nailed the window shut because it was faulty and that the mother was then ordered by Old Ford Housing to remove the nails, as they posed a danger and that Leanne’s mother, Claire Sieberras tells the paper how often she complaint to Old Ford Housing without any result and that Old Ford Housing outright deny that such negotiations took place.

The police have now gotten involved and it must be evident if that window had ever been nailed shut or not and also through phone records whether calls had been made to Old Ford Housing. All we read is that Old Ford Housing made a statement saying that there are ‘no safety flaws’.  One cannot disregard the comments of  Leanne’s mother, her family or the neighbour because Old Ford Housing’s official story is that they have no evidence of any concerns logged with them.

To continue with the housing maintenance threat at the beginning of this post, when we had the old, Tower Hamlets wide housing management system, the local housing office had a duty to log all callers with a hard copy, visitors book, into which housing officers duly registered each and every visitor, that came to the office and they wrote into this very evident visitors book, when and why callers came to the office, so that it was not possible to deny that complaints had been made.

It was with this in mind that I raised a query with Tower Hamlets Homes to ask how calls are logged now because it is one of the most outstanding features of complaints that people ring up, and get hung up on and nobody knows why they called. Electronic call handling in itself and the logging of those calls is not fool proof if whole strains of calls can be removed from a database because there is no system of numbering those calls consecutively.

However so far not too much importance has been placed into my concerns. The fact is that most people when they are speaking to housing officers they do not care whether they have obtained proof of their conversations, they just trust the officer to do their job.

I know for certain that Mr John Gray, my opponent in a libel matter works for Old Ford Housing. He used to be a senior housing officer for Tower Hamlets Council and then moved to Old Ford Housing shortly after I had complained to Tower Hamlets Council that a senior housing officer is writing material about a tenant under his care.  Old Ford Housing has attracted a few complaints that were featured in the local paper over the last 2 years. Mr Gray of course is known for his view on portraying machine gun wielding heroes on his webblog, he is a councillor in Newham now and a known union activist.

It is not exactly the best calling card for a local housing officer, or indeed the housing association he works for, who is in charge of residents that such mentality is prevalent in him. It is certainly not often happening that such incidents as this death of an 8-year old is happening under such controversial circumstances. That a mother should tell of countless contacts with a landlord over a faulty window and the landlord completely denies that such contacts took place, that windows were nailed shut and nails ordered to be removed, but the landlord completely denies that such incidences took place as well.

I have never heard Mr Gray or any other unionist take up my fears over call logging on housing issues, about the accountability on logging repairs requests. It is very, very sad and of great concern that such issues are an apparent feature in the death of an 8-year old child.  This child should not have died and be alive and happy among us and I miss promises by social housing landlords to improve the call logging of both personal contacts with housing officers and phone calls that are made with a fool proof system.

The Tower Hamlets website for example has a complaints procedure whereby each complaint is allocated a consecutive number when it is made on the site but only 15% of Tower Hamlets residents have computers and many still prefer personal contact or are encouraged to make phone contact with the landlord. I have no knowledge of how Old Ford Housing’s procedures are but think that if a family had reported a problem and such reports being affirmed by the local community, then the landlord Old Housing cannot simply deny those calls for help. Old Ford Housing says they have a clear record sheet, they deny such reports took place. There should be an investigation by Old Ford Housing into why it is possible that staff had not made any records of those complaints and the result of that investigation should be made available to the public.

Old Ford Housing should have promised such an investigation publicly. Yet this lack of desire to be publicly accountable and having to justify their procedures, is quite common among service providers in Tower Hamlets.

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