Farim is a Survivor of torture from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He was a founding member of an organisation that supported homeless women and children.
He was arrested several times and suffered extreme physical violence including being stabbed and beaten so badly about the head that he has sustained permanent damage to his left eye. Farim was sentenced first to hard labour and then to death. Farim escaped prison, fled to the UK and claimed asylum. After he fled, his wife was arrested and tortured so badly she died.
This traumatic experience has had considerable long-term effects on Farim’s mental and physical health and ability to function; Farim suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, major depressive disorder, chronic kidney disease, high blood pressure, poor visual acuity, and constant back pain. Farim’s application for asylum was successful but his problems were not over.
As there is no automatic duty to provide housing for refugees, Farim was forced to present to his local council as homeless and apply to be considered as ‘priority’ for housing. The council declined to provide housing, which is not unusual. HBF supported Farim to challenge this decision through a solicitor; this was successful but the accommodation he was given was crowded and unsanitary and brought back memories of his time in detention. HBF again supported Farim to appeal the decision and finally he secured suitable private rented accommodation to be funded through housing benefit. Farim felt finally settled and ready to begin integrating into his new community when the landlord abruptly issued a notice seeking possession because of an administrative delay in Farim’s housing benefit. This was incredibly distressing but HBF worked closely with Farim to understand the situation, liaise with his landlord and help him feel confident that he was not going to be made homeless.
HBF supported Farim to apply for Employment Support Allowance (ESA); the benefit awarded to people who are unable to work. His application was refused. Whist we were supporting Farim to appeal this decision, HBF provided four instalments of emergency relief, a food bag and food bank voucher and helped Farim apply for travel and energy bill discounts.
HBF provided four instalments of emergency relief, a food bag and food bank voucher and helped Farim apply for travel and energy bill discounts.
We found out Farim’s GP was refusing to supply a sick note for his ESA appeal, having received a letter from the DWP stating his application had been unsuccessful and instructing the GP not to provide further sick notes. This was incredibly concerning; the DWP’s assessment should not influence the clinical judgement of a GP. Thanks to the Helen Bamber Foundation’s referral to a law centre, and evidence provided by our foundation’s clinical team, Farim’s ESA was reinstated; with a stipulation that Farim should not be assessed for ESA again for 18 months, he should not have to provide medical certificates and that he should receive backdated payments. The law centre have subsequently taken Farim’s case further and submitted questions to be tabled in parliament regarding the ‘horrifying’ practice by the DWP.