Siblings 'trapped' in one-bed council flat blame 'bureaucratic overkill'

Mathew Thorpe (right) and his sister Leah have been living in Mathew's one bed flat together for over a year

Mathew Thorpe (right) and his sister Leah have been living in Mathew's one bed flat together for over a year - Credit: Mathew Thorpe

A 33-year-old sharing his one-bed flat with his teenage sister after she became estranged from their mother has hit out at the council for "rejecting" their plea for an upgrade.

Mathew Thorpe has been sleeping on the sofa of his council flat in north Norwich since last April when Leah, then 15, came to live with him and moved into his room.

Mathew's has to keep his clothes in the living room - which is also his bedroom

Mathew's has to keep his clothes in the living room - which is also his bedroom - Credit: Mathew Thorpe

He applied for a two-bed council house through the Norwich City Council's Home Options scheme in May 2020, but because there was no court order proving the residency was permanent, he was ineligible.

Instead, the siblings have been "living on top of each other" for over a year without any personal space.

He said: "I understood at the beginning the council were worried she might just go back to our mum, but by November last year I was receiving child benefit on my sister's behalf.

"That can only legally be paid to the person looking after the child, and should be evidence enough that she's here all the time."

A city council spokesperson, however, said receipt of child benefit was not proof of permanent residency, or confirmation that Leah wouldn't simply return to her mother's house down the line.

The pair's living room double-functions as Mathew's bedroom, making the place extremely cramped

The pair's living room double-functions as Mathew's bedroom, making the place extremely cramped - Credit: Mathew Thorpe

Leah is now sleeping in the bedroom after moving in with Mathew last April

Leah is now sleeping in the bedroom after moving in with Mathew last April - Credit: Mathew Thorpe

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They added that there were 4000 applicants on the housing register - and all must be prepared to fulfil formalities to prove household size.

"To make sure the city’s limited amount of social housing is used to meet our high level of housing need, we ask all applicants to provide evidence that their living arrangements are permanent", the spokesperson said.

“As soon as Mr Thorpe provides this evidence, his application will be updated and backdated so that he can find a property that better suits his needs.”

Mr Thorpe has complained to the council for its "bureaucratic overkill", which he said has since been escalated after he received an "unsatisfactory response" from the head of housing.

Mathew Thorpe (right) and his sister Leah have been living in Mathew's one bed flat together for over a year

Mathew Thorpe (right) and his sister Leah have been living in Mathew's one bed flat together for over a year. They've found it especially tough during lockdowns while Mathew works from home - Credit: Mathew Thorpe

Mr Thorpe said: "We've finally got a court order hearing in August, but it's getting really difficult for us. We feel trapped.

"I'm working from home, and my living room is both my office and my bedroom.

"The council says it assesses everything on a case by case basis but this is bureaucratic overkill.

"Though we're in a pandemic, and they could see me and my sister are struggling, they still rejected our application and are still demanding a court order."

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