Judges have warned councils against relying on the firm’s advice and overturned decisions determined by its assessments, calling them “irrational” and “tainted” and criticising the firm for not taking the time to meet or speak to those they are assessing.
The firm the Judges are speaking about is NowMedical and nine Kent councils have paid them £103,543 for more than 2,500 medical reports. These reports are to assess whether someone is medically vulnerable enough to be considered “priority need” for housing support.
NowMedical charges £35 plus VAT for a basic report on whether someone is medically vulnerable enough to get long-term support to prevent or alleviate their homelessness. In most cases, this is produced solely on the basis of the council’s paperwork; NowMedical doctors rarely meet the person involved, and do not regularly access their full medical records or talk to their GP. On its website, NowMedical says that it can turn reports around in a single day.
Doctors who have never met you or even seen your full medical records can help decide whether you are a homelessness priority in in eight of the nine Kent councils.
Yet despite the warnings of Judges, eight of the nine councils continue to use NowMedical. (Swale no longer use NowMedical.)
The Company is based in West London and has its registered business address, according to Companies House, at No 1 High Street, Sherness, on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent.
Giles Peaker editor of the highly regarded Nearly Legal Housing Law blog, cites legal cases where NowMedical have been named on seven occasions.
Nicholas Nicol, a barrister who has successfully challenged council decisions based on NowMedical assessments said:
“In my opinion, they are delivering, in the broadest terms, the advice that their customers want to hear,”
Kent Housing campaigners have accused Kent councils of using the company’s assessments to keep vulnerable people homeless. And a spokesperson said:
“We have come across a number of decisions by Kent councils using NowMedical to deny homeless duties to vulnerable people struggling with homelessness as well as disabilities and serious medical issues,”
One Kent Cllr whose council uses NowMedical, said relying on NowMedical wasn’t “ideal” and now they’ve seen the evidence they’ll do what they can to find an alternative.
Surely all nine Kent councils must recognise that this service isn’t ideal, especially given what numerous judges have said about NowMedical. We believe all named councils ought to stop using NowMedical.
Those threatened with or experiencing homelessness can approach their local council for help, assuming their immigration status means they are eligible for public funds. After an initial period of support where the council will try to end or prevent their homelessness, they will be assessed to see if they are eligible for long-term help.
The council will consider whether the person is intentionally homeless, how long-standing and strong their links to the local area are and, crucially, if they are so vulnerable that they warrant help.
People may be considered vulnerable if they have a physical disability, mental health issues, or if they are elderly, fleeing domestic abuse or have been in care or the military. But being considered vulnerable is not enough. The council housing officers will then decide if the person is significantly more vulnerable than an ordinary person would be if they became homeless. It is here many cases fall down.
If they decide the person does not meet that bar, then they are assessed as “non-priority need”. They can appeal the decision internally and even take the case to judicial review, if they can find the funds. However, without the decision being overturned, the council is under no obligation to find them housing, leaving them with few options to keep them off the streets.
In all instances, the decisions to deny housing to applicants are made by the council. At no point is NowMedical making these decisions; they are paid to provide medical assessments.
If you live in one of the Council districts who use NowMedical and have had a medical done by NowMedical, please do get in contact with us at – shepwayvox[at]riseup[dot]net.
If you have housing issues, there is legal aid available for certain housing issues such as homelessness reviews.
You can contact:
Or your local Citizens Advice Bureau
The Shepwayvox Team
Dissent is NOT a Crime
Parts of this post first appeared on the Bureau Local website.