Mirror: Out on the street: Victims of Britain's sabotaged safety net
tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Wed Jul 23 15:33:36 BST 2014
Out on the street: Victims of the broken safety net
15, 2014 20:22 -
Single mum Samantha Skinner was diagnosed with
multiple sclerosis while on maternity leave and
is now being kicked out of her flat
John Alevroyiannis / Daily Mirror
Evicted: Single mum Samantha Skinner, with MS, with her two-year-old son Max
Samantha Skinner is packing her life away into
boxes because at the weekend the bailiffs will come.
Her flat in her home town of Tunbridge Wells,
Kent, has been a refuge for the past two years.
Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis while on
maternity leave, Samanthas relationship fell
apart under the strain, leaving her a disabled single mum.
This flat has been a safe place for me to bring
up my son Max, says Samantha, 28. But now were
being kicked out and weve got nowhere to go.
Samanthas landlord fell behind with his mortgage
payments and now she and Max, two, are being
evicted as the lender repossesses the flat.
And because they are on housing benefit they cant find anywhere to go.
It seems as if no one wants a housing benefit
tenant, even if youve got a guarantor, says
Samantha, who gave up work in customer services
for a wallpaper company
of her MS.
Once they find out youre on housing benefit
most estate agents dont even ring you back.
Statistics from the charity Shelter show Samantha
is right. Our research has found that half of
landlords have a policy of not letting to people
Housing Allowance or Housing Benefit, and a
further 18% say they occasionally do, but prefer
not to, its report on the private rented sector says.
It is less than three weeks since Housing
Minister Kris Hopkins told Panorama its
perfectly legitimate for landlords to decide
they dont want a tenant on Housing Benefit. His
remarks, interpreted as meaning it was acceptable
for landlords to evict social tenants, were
described as appalling by his Labour opposite, Emma Reynolds.
In January, Judith and Fergus Wilson, who own
nearly 1,000 properties near Samantha in Kent and
are among the UKs biggest buy-to-let investors,
revealed they had sent eviction notices to 200
tenants who received some support from the welfare state.
Fergus said: If I am heartless all the other
landlords are heartless as were all doing the
same. All landlords will tell you there is so
much default now with housing benefits tenants
you are better off with somebody working.
The Wilsons said they would rather have Eastern
Europeans in work than British people on benefits.
The strained relationship between private
landlords and housing benefit tenants is likely
to come under even more pressure when Iain Duncan
Smiths flagship Universal Credit comes into
force. With payments going to tenants rather than
direct to landlords, there are fears that some
hard-pressed families will struggle even more.
In the well-heeled spa town of Royal Tunbridge
Wells to give it its full name social housing
is in short supply. Samantha and Max face being
sent an hours drive away to the coast to
emergency hostel accommodation, far from supportive family and friends.
In Tunbridge Wells I have family who can come
and cook for me on a difficult day or help look after Max, she says.
Her MS, controlled with drugs, had been much
better until recently, although she still suffered heavy fatigue.
Samantha says: Stress is a big trigger for a
relapse. Suddenly I am getting all these warning
symptoms. Im so tired I cant stay awake without medication.
Ive got sensory impairments, nerve pain and
problems with balance. Sometimes it affects my
eyesight. Theres a pain travelling down my back
like an electric shock. The left side of my face
is pins and needles and burning.
Unable to find a private landlord who will take
her and Max, Samantha also knows she is just one
desperate name on a long list waiting for a
council property. Meanwhile, she has to wait
until she is officially homeless to qualify for emergency help.
As it is she has to make up the shortfall in her
rent every month from her disability payments.
£775 a month is covered by housing benefit and
then I have to find another £30.
She fought to receive the Personal Independence
Payment for 18 months and was even forced to
appeal before eventually being awarded it.
Two years ago I was just living my life,
Samantha says. I was working, I wasnt someone on benefits.
Then, when she was a few weeks pregnant, her foot
went numb. She was tested for a stroke and
eventually for MS, even having an MRI scan while
pregnant. She couldnt begin treatment until
after Max had been born, by which time her symptoms were accelerating.
Tunbridge Borough Council says it already does a
lot to help homeless families. The council tries
to avoid homeless households having to go into
emergency accommodation, a spokeswoman says.
We see it very much as a last resort, to be used
when all other options have failed.
We try to place applicants within the borough
where possible but often have to seek
accommodation further away, such as in Eastbourne or Hastings.
But as the gulf between renters and owners opens
ever wider, the gap between social tenants and
the rest of the country gapes wider still.
The two-bedroom flat Samantha has been renting
has increased in value by around 5% since last
year and is worth around £200,000. She,
however, is awaiting the bailiffs with a little
boy who cant understand why half his life is packed up into boxes.
The social protection on housing, a key part of
the welfare state, is no longer a safety net.
When Samantha and Max are evicted this weekend,
we should all be disgusted of Tunbridge Wells.
Shocking images reveal elderly couple living on
the streets after being evicted from their home
Jul 14, 2014 18:56 By Euan Stretch, Steve Robson
The 84-year-old man and his 75-year-old partner
are sleeping rough in Bournemouth after failing to pay their rent
Dispute: The couple failed to pay their rent
following changes to how pensions are paid
It's an image which should shame Britain in the 21st century.
Huddled together under seafront shelter, an
84-year-old man and his 75-year-old partner are
now living rough on the streets of Bournemouth.
The couple, who are not being named, are
attending a local soup kitchen to be fed.
It is understood that until recently they had
been living in a privately-rented home.
But following changes to their pension, they
failed to pay their rent and were evicted.
Pensions are now paid electronically into bank
accounts but the couple are said to dislike using
debit and credit cards and internet banking and
have been unable to collect their money in their usual way.
As a result they are homeless while the matter is slowly resolved.
BNPSElderly Couple Living RoughStruggle: The
couple are attending a local soup kitchen in order to be fed
Charity workers have reacted with shock and anger at the situation.
Robin Richmond, a church volunteer, stumbled upon
the couples plight while he was helping a church
get set up to assist local homeless people.
Mr Richmond said: They have helped people
through voluntary organisations and it is a real
pity that in their hour of need they have been left to live on the streets.
At a time when people are so concerned about the
misuse of benefits it appears that the system is
radically failing a couple who, on the face of
it, we should be honouring and not forgetting.
Bournemouth Council says it has offered the
couple emergency accommodation but this was refused.
Kelly Ansell, Bournemouth Borough Councils
strategic housing manager, said: The couples
situation was recently assessed and they were
offered emergency accommodation but this was refused.
We would urge them to make further contact with the councils housing team.
But campaigners say more must be done to help the pair.
Sarah Carroll, head of community services at Age
UK Bournemouth, said: It shouldnt really get to
this point, it is quite outrageous.
I understand a lot of people have tried to
engage with them, clearly they cant sort this out on their own.
Reverend dr Ian Terry, Bournemouth Town Centre
Parish Team Rector, said: I am shocked to hear this.
Homelessness is a blight on our society - nobody
should be without a home. It is particularly
shocking to hear that they are such an elderly couple.
What this sad example shows is that, although
things are being done, they are not being done
quickly enough, and there is a need for further action.
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