NowMedical: Islington Council won’t renew contract with firm that found homeless torture survivor ‘not vulnerable’

A complaint was lodged with Islington Council but the local authority never publicly corrected the s

A complaint was lodged with Islington Council but the local authority never publicly corrected the statemen. Picture:Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

Islington Council will stop outsourcing health checks to a controversial firm that claimed a homeless torture survivor was not vulnerable.

The council has allocated an extra £280,000 in its 2020-21 budget to prevent homelessness and support vulnerable households with complex issues like mental or physical health problems.

NowMedical is contracted until March 31 to assess housing and homelessness applications and advise Islington Council whether people qualify for priority-need accommodation, before the final decision is taken by officers.

MP Jeremy Corbyn and councillors have raised concerns about NowMedical, after hearing "troubling stories", such as staff allegedly not meeting most people before assessing them.

Housing chief Cllr Diarmaid Ward said: "We are going to have our own specialist occupational therapist to do the assessments and we are hoping it can add a bit more depth and rigour because we know people have concerns about NowMedical, particularly the court case and the judge's criticism."

In February the Gazette reported the case of a homeless Iranian refugee who could not speak English and suffered from PTSD and urinary incontinence linked to beatings. The 37-year-old was repeatedly found not to be vulnerable, on the advice of NowMedical - but a judge subsequently overturned the decision.

This paper also reported the story of a couple in temporary accommodation. A 59-year-old woman recovering from breast cancer claimed she couldn't sleep with her partner owing to night sweats brought on by her chemotherapy. She and her doctor said she needed a two-bed council flat but Islington and its adviser NowMedical agreed the couple could fit two single beds into one small room.

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In May, the Gazette revealed NowMedical had assessed more than 6,000 applications since 2016.

In July we covered the case of a man with a history of depression and deliberate drug overdoses who was faced with homelessness, after it was deemed he wasn't vulnerable enough to be eligible for priority housing. NowMedical has consistently declined to comment on these incidents.

The budget proposals will go to the council executive on Thursday (16 January) and full council on February 27.