Gone was on our doorstep at 6.30am today (Polly heard him, thankfully the Vicar and I were still asleep). He rang the doorbell on and off from 6.55am, but was gone by the time we were all downstairs from breakfast at around 8 o’clock. The Queen’s bedroom is just above the front door and she told me that he was singing loudly about chocolate. There were two bottles of Frosty Jack on the drive.
Yesterday we tried to help him get sorted out with the benefits system. He said that noone was able to help him.
If you don't know it, you're in a fix
Gone has forgotten his National Insurance number because he’s suffering from alcoholic dementia. He has no identification documents because he’s lost them all, so is struggling to prove his identity. Without an NI number he can’t claim benefits and therefore can’t even get a place in a homeless hostel. He’s frightened, ill and frustrated. And I don’t blame him.
The Vicar let Gone use the phone to speak to the Job Centre that he’s always dealt with, but because he can’t remember his NI number, they were unable to help. You need two forms of identification – you know, utility bills, passport – and he doesn’t have them.
Later, after Gone had left, I spoke to our local Job Centre Plus, the West Midlands Probation Service (Gone is less than a month out of prison but is without a probation officer), Walsall Probation office, Sandwell Adult Social Services, Aquarius (the Sandwell alcohol service), a Sally Army hostel, the Birmingham homelessness team, the local housing office and the local emergency homelessness team. Everyone I spoke to was sympathetic and helpful, but were stumped about how to help.
The emergency homeless team said they might be able to do a bit more with some more input from him, so next time he’s here in office hours I shall call them so I can mediate for him. In the meantime I’m going to call the central National Insurance office and the mental health services to see if there is any more advice available.
At the moment he seems to falling through a hole in a system designed to stop identity theft. He’s not trying to steal an identity. He’s just forgetting his own.
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