Diary Day 119: Universal Credit Further Cuts and Homelessness To Come

How do we solve the problem with Universal Credit? A sing along version to the Sound of Music soundtrack would be funny if it weren’t that serious.

ESA Support Group 

I am in the ESA Support Group, one of the two groups under the old Incapacity Benefit that has identified me as incapable of work in the long term.

ESA WRAG

The other group, the WRAG is for people who have been assessed as being able to return to work at some point in the future. You’ve heard of the WRAG because in April this year, the amount a claimant receives has been cut to the level of someone on Job Seeker’s allowance. i.e. about £71.00 per week.

In the Support Group, I receive more because it includes something called a Disablement Payment which in a nutshell means, because my health condition is serious and long term, I’m paid more to accommodate this.

Turned down for DLA not applying for PIP 

In total every month I receive about £500.00 in total benefits. I’m not claiming PIP, the new DLA because when I applied for DLA I was turned down.

I appealed and it went all the way to Tribunal, at which point my health was so bad, I was unable to attend.

How much do benefits currently give me?

At this point in time I receive Housing Benefit to cover the costs of my rent, council tax relief ( I don’t have to pay it ) and the £500.00 per month to cover everything else.

Everything. Gas bill, electricity bill, water bill, phone bill, broadband bill, TV license, clothing and food has to come out of £500.00 per month.

I am thankful I’m past a certain age and I don’t have to factor sanitary wear into the equation but I do have to buy washing liquid for myself and washing up, plus everything a normal non-disabled person needs to live as well.

I don’t drive. I don’t have scooter transport. If I go anywhere I have to go by bus or walk, both of which grossly exacerbate my health condition.

Housing Benefit and London rents 

Because I live in London, the maximum Housing Benefit I can have is £909.00 per calendar month. That’s because I’m single.

If I were attached, I’d be able to claim only half of that plus, I’d lose the right to claim Council Tax Relief.

Think about that for a moment. £909.00 PCM.

Where in London is there  a studio flat or a 1 bedroom flat – you can’t claim Housing Benefit for additional bedrooms because of the Bedroom Tax – for £909.00 per calendar month?

Nowhere. And I know. I’ve looked for one.

Prejudice against Housing Benefit tenants

Between 2015 and 2016 I had to search for a new rented flat.

My previous flat was in such poor repair that although it was priced at under the Housing Benefit Cap it was so unhealthy, so badly repaired, so bad for my health that I jumped.

With no hope of rehousing from my local council I tried to find somewhere else to live in the private rented sector.

There started what I can only and politely describe as ‘an education.’

It was an education in how prejudiced landlords and estate agents are against letting to someone on Housing Benefit.

I had to search mostly by using the phone. Using the phone tends to distance people from the person they are speaking to, but large well known high street chains of estate and lettings agents spoke to me and about me in ways that again, would be funny if it weren’t so serious.

I heard it all, comments about how landlords don’t have to rent to people on benefits in London, so they don’t.

Estate Agents, most of them very large names you’d recognise, telling me that they advise landlords not to let to Housing Benefit tenants.

Comments that when I explain I’m disabled, directly contradict the Equalities Act, comments that blocked me from even being able to discuss likely properties, in one instance even having the phone put down on me mid-conversation.

After 8 months of that, and with my date of needing to leave the property I was in fast approaching, The Universe stepped in to help. I found somewhere with nice, caring landlords who ‘want to help.’

Problem: rent is £69.00 more than the local housing allowance of £909.00 per calendar month.

I took the flat. I had to. I’m very happy there, it’s made my health improve but what it hasn’t done is helped the financial situation.

I have to pay the additional rent from my ESA Support Group payments – that totals £69.00 on top of heat, light, food and everything else I have to cover a month. 

How did I get my flat ?

I have to have a guarantor. That’s someone that’s signed my lettings contract to say they will cover the rent ‘if the worse happens.’

That person and I had to have a very, very long conversation before they’d agree. So did me and my landlords. Already they said that what made them very nervous about renting to me was the system isn’t my work, it’s the Council.

Guess what? They were proved right. In the first month the Council ‘forgot’ to pay me my Housing Benefit. It took an additional 5 days to rectify and in the meanwhile I got every angry, accusatory phone call you can imagine from my landlords who felt I’d lied to them about the system.

I had to persuade them it wouldn’t happen again but the damage was done. They told me it couldn’t happen again or they’d go straight to my guarantor to retrieve the rent: they need it as their income you see, they can’t have delays to payments either.

and that’s in the current system….

It is no secret whatsoever that Universal Credit has had problems in roll-out. The stories about people being left without payments sounds like it’s occasional but it’s not.

“No-one will be worse off under Universal Credit”

The Government’s clarion cry is a lie, pure and simple. For people like myself receiving the Disablement Allowance, the extra bit per week on top of the £71.00 that those in the ESA Wrag and Job Seeker’s Allowance receive, we are going to lose that in Universal Credit.

Doing the maths…

Having done the maths the situation at that point which is already dire due to the Housing Benefit Cap will become even more so. 

I will at that point not be able to cover my additional £69.00 per month rent. I will also not have enough money to cover my bills or feed myself.

What happens then?  Under my current contract my guarantor will be expected to pay the additional moneys I will not be able to afford per month.

If I default on anything they will then have to pay all of it. This is likely as I wait 6 weeks for a payment that has been reduced to such an extent that afterwards I will not have enough money to live on.

Hitting the disabled where it matters…again. 

In the Budget of 2016 and 2017 the government knew that under U.C. people in the ESA Support Group, the most seriously unwell or disabled people, would be receiving this additional cut.

They knew and they lied about it. So, when we heaved a collective sigh of relief it was in vain.

When those of us who have not been given PIP when trying for it or migrating to PIP from DLA and it’s cut our entitlement heard about the further cuts in U.C. we again stared long and hard into the distance in disbelief.

October 18th vote against Universal Credit

Yesterday’s vote in the House of Commons has to be taken seriously.

When I’m migrated onto U.C. my landlords have told me they are considering not renewing my letting agreement – they’ve read the news, they’ve read up on it, they can see what is about to happen.

How many others will do the same, how many other people like me will again face homelessness and destitution under a system that the government lies about.

“No-one will be worse off under Universal Credit” is a blatant lie.

The implications are huge, they are horrendous.

STOP UNIVERSAL CREDIT NOW

Copyright Lindy, 2017. 

 

 

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