Tenants share horror stories about living under Welwyn Hatfield GAP Scheme

"I was 21 and pregnant when I moved in there. They tried to evict me."

"I was 21 and pregnant when I moved in there. I have made several complaints but no one has responded. Instead, they tried to evict me." - Credit: blogspot

Tenants of a charity which provides temporary accommodation for young adults and their children have shared horror stories about its work.

The GAP (Guaranteed Accommodation Payments) Scheme describes itself as an accommodation-based service for young people who require housing related floating support to enable them to improve the quality of their lives and develop independent living skills within the Welwyn Hatfield area.

Various residents who receive help from the scheme say they have had issues with the property in terms of damages, unclean living conditions and broken appliances, and staff violating their privacy and personal space. 

After one tenant, Charlie Day, publicised her story on Facebook she came to understand that she was not alone. Multiple former and current tenants have come forward with their personal experiences about the organisation and revealed how living there has affected them. 

Charlie, who started living in GAP accommodation about a year ago, said: “I was 21 and pregnant when I moved in there. I didn’t have a fridge or a freezer and I haven't had a working washing machine since I moved in. I have made several complaints but no one has responded. Instead, they tried to evict me. Their reason for evicting me was that I had too much stuff.” 

The GAP Scheme is a project funded by Herts County Council and as such does not have a standalone website. Rather than being front-facing, the council refers cases into the service using agreed pathways.

According to multiple tenants, they have had to pay their rent in cash or their money goes into a personal bank account, while very few residents pay directly to the council.  

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They have also claimed to have had to pay the same month’s rent again, as they get notices of outstanding arrears even after paying on time, and the tenants end up paying more as they do not wish to be evicted.  

Tenants have said that their privacy has also been violated multiple times by one staff member walks into their houses, rooms, and even bathrooms while they are in use, and goes through their personal belongings without any notice.  

Many of these young adults have recounted stories of not having control over the heating and hot water, derogatory comments made about pregnant women, and their pets being sold while they were away from the property.

“When you live there, it’s like you live in school. You are under supervision all the time and you get told off for things you haven’t even done. I didn't have any mental health issues before I moved in that house and now, I am on anti-depressants to prevent my anxiety psychosis and depression,” Charlie added. 

Tenants say the GAP Scheme might have started off as an initiative to provide help for young people but this is no longer the case.

Charlie added: “It is not a charity organisation to help us. When this many people have made complaints, you’d expect them to get back to one of us. There are so many people that have made complaints but get no response so they give up.” 

The GAP Scheme itself, nor the accused staff member have had any comments about the allegations made but the council itself is looking into these issues to a meeting will be held next week to speak to the accused staff member. 

A spokesperson for the Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council said: “The council is aware of some issues regarding the GAP Scheme, which is managed by an independent charity, and we are looking into this thoroughly.  

"We can’t comment on specifics while a case is ongoing, but the safety and support of the tenants involved is extremely important to us. Housing officers have been speaking to the people involved and extra checks are being made additionally to those usually carried out, so that we can get the best resolution for everyone concerned.” 

The scheme is funded by Herts county council, and a spokesperson said: "HCC is committed to supporting adults who need help with developing skills to enable them to live independently.

"The GAP scheme has always provided a good service and has supported many families since it was first established. We take any concerns from the service users very seriously and are in talks with the scheme manager to ensure that the service continues to deliver good outcomes.”