ITNet Payouts – Not Likely!

letter printed in Hackney Gazette 17th May

Your report last week that Hackney Council plan to take ITNet to court for £30 million damages might have cheered a few of your readers up, but think about this; ITNet have in fact increased their turnover again this year, despite their obvious failures in Hackney, and look set to win more contracts for their “outsourcing” work, meanwhile the agony goes on for those left waiting for payments and threatened with eviction.

Thousands of Hackney residents have been affected by this fiasco – most of them on low incomes and already feeling the pinch – but who will pay for it all? Who decided to sign a contract with ITNet and why did it take so long for the council to respond? Will the real victims of this scandal get any compensation? Don’t hold your breath.

Dan Carter
Hackney IWCA

Ombudsman Recommends Payout for Benefits Victim

The local government Ombudsman has ruled that a woman who suffered delays and denials from both Hackney Council and ITNet is entitled to a payout of £250 to compensate her for her troubles. The woman, who submitted the appropriate documents for her Housing Benefit claim, was left waiting for months, and only received payment after a complaint to the Ombudsman.

While the amount is hardly a fair reflection of what many people go through, it is clear that the work Hackney Independent has put in through groups like Whose Benefit? and our advice surgeries in Shoreditch, are producing some results for local people who have been snubbed by the Council and messed around by a company like ITNet that should stick to working with computers rather than people.

Arden Estate Hit By Arson

A report in this week’s Hackney Gazette highlights the issue of anti-social behaviour on Shoreditch’s Arden Estate. The paper tells us that the “vandalism-plagued council estate has suffered its third arson attack in two weeks” when underground garages, which have been disused for a number of years, were set on fire, probably by “gangs of kids who maraud around the estate vandalising cars and buildings”.

Shoreditch Sector Working Group member, Adam Richards is quoted as saying “There are a lot of alleyways and the poice don’t patrol them. Their main concern is the drug and gun problems in Dalston…” while TA chair Audrey Villas says “We’ve been asking for resources to get (the garages) fixed up but the council has no money.”

Anti-social behaviour of this type is exactly what Hackney IWCA (Hackney Independent as of summer 2004) has been working on as an issue in this part of Hackney, and this week we are holding another community meeting which brings in two blocks of the Arden Estate along with the Geffrye Estate. Work has already begun on identifying the problems faced by tenants in the area and proposals have been put forward by both Hackney IWCA, the TA and individual tenants.

Clearly, the issue is not a simple one to solve, otherwise it would have been dealt with, but we have to look at why working class communities suffer disproportionately from vandalism, intimidation and drug-related problems. As many tenants will point out, the young people responsible for a lot of this behaviour have no facilities of their own – few youth clubs or sports facilities in particular – but it would be naive to think that if a youth club opened the problem would disappear overnight; a co-ordinated community-led response that isolates the troublemakers and at the same time fights for facilities in the area seems to be the only way we can move this issue forward.

This is why Hackney IWCA is looking at all available options to combat the problem, not just in Hackney but in Islington too. The proposals and problems can be seen in the Hackney Independent Stanway edition which is online later this week.