Counihan-Sanchez family facing eviction
The plight of the Counihan-Sanchez family has got extensive coverage in the Irish Post and Irish world. Basically a family of seven is facing eviction onto the streets because Anthony, the father, inherited nine acres in Galway and Brent Council decided in January this year that this "capital asset" rendered then ineligible for Housing Benefit. They were issued with an eviction notice for 13 August, which was halted by court action.
A row broke out about what Glenda Jackson MP said in private to Isabel Counihan -Sanchez - Glenda denied she had told the family to move to Wales but whatever Glenda said to Isabel in private she made her attitude abundantly clear during the course of that meeting in the Kingsgate Community centre in Kilburn on 29th August. She told the Counihans that the family were subject to means-tested housing benefit, and since they had “capital assets” in Ireland, were not entitled to any benefit. As this was the law, she said, she was unable to do anything, and she also refused to table an Early Day Motion on the issue.
In response to my query of what she saw as her role she said “my job is to tell them the reality”. “And what makes you any different to any Tory MP then?” I asked. She also reduced Isabel to tears by refusing to take a folder that she had prepared with all the details of the families’ health and other social problems and telling her that that she could not come into the meeting, which was public! She refused the same folder from 15 year old Sarah Counihan later.
But worse was to come for the Counihans. Rose McIntosh, the Brent housing Advice officer sent an email to Isabel detailing the advice she gave her when she went to meet her with her sister on Monday 3 September. It seriously proposes that Isabel and her family move to the field that they inherited in Ireland and live in a caravan. She said, though this is not in the email, that Anthony should not give up his job as they were hard to get these days but they could commute I(from Peterswell in Galway to London). Isabel pointed out that they did not have a caravan, there was no sanitation on the site she could not drive and how would they get the children to school, how would she care for Vinny, the four year old autistic child?
Furthermore they had offered to give the land to Brent back in January when the Housing Benefit was about to be cut and the council said that would be illegal because they would be “dispersing assets to gain a means-tested benefit”.
No the council says sell the land but what now happened to the legal advice from January? Was this bogus given to avoid paying the Housing Benefit at the time and was whole nightmare avoidable if the council accepted the offer of the land at the time? And if they now sell it might not that be really illegal and who will pay for all that misery to the whole family?
Isabel was traumatised and suicidal after the interview with Rose McIntosh. She rallied and will speak at the demonstration for the NHS to Brent Town Hall on 15th September and also at the Demonstration down Kilburn High Road on 6th October. She and her family are not going to Hell or to Connaught and the Counihan Battle bus Campaign will never let that happen
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