Rent arrears / domestic violence
A woman with very severe burn scars all over her face and neck and a bad limp. She had previously faced eviction from her council flat for arrears which was settled by an agreed instalment arrangement . However she had never really understood how much she was due to pay and had said that she found the collections department very unhelpful and she had understood from them that she was due to pay £ 74.80 per fortnight for her arrears and service charge. She found this a very difficult sum to find out of her benefits and occasionally missed a payment. She had come with a letter from her landlords which she had been afraid to open as she was sure that it would be a notice of eviction. She had been a victim of domestic violence which had left her fragile and nervous but she was doing her best to keep her finances on track and herself and the children in the property .
When she eventually did open the letter she couldn’t understand as it took 2 pages to say that she was £ 26 .00 in arrears with the instalment plan. I rang the collections department and with some difficulty elicited from them her actual liability which was £ 52 per fortnight. The client was overwhelmed with relief . That is a manageable sum for her so she will not now fall behind.
A young woman living in a one bedroomed council flat had recently been made redundant . She was living on her redundancy payment and was very reluctant to claim benefits although she would be entitled to something. However she was clearly under 35 so if she had claimed housing benefit she would only have been entitled to the shared room rate which would not have been enough to pay the rent even in a small council flat. Her rent had recently gone up quite substantially and she had discovered that she was paying the same as someone with a 2 bedroom flat in the same block and that the website for her landlords says that the maximum rent for a one bedroomed property is considerably less than she is paying. I agreed to investigate this with the landlord. We often find that big social landlords have not visited and do not know much about many of the properties they own. She hoped that if there was a mistake she might have a few month’s worth of rent credit to tide her over until she found a job.
DLA application/ electricity arrears
A client who had made an application for disability living allowance had received a letter of query from DWP which was so long and expressed In such formal language that she did not understand what she was being asked . I explained and completed it for her.
She was also in arrears with her electricity bill. She is badly disabled and has small children so I applied over the telephone for the electricity company to give her a vulnerable person’s discount and arranged an instalment arrangement for her arrears .
A single mother with one child came in with a letter from DWP telling her she will be affected by the overall benefit cap next April. Her rent for a one bedroomed flat in a very deprived part of Westminster is £378 p.w . The benefits she receives for herself and her child are £157 p.w. so that she receives £35 more than the benefit cap of £ 500. From next April she will have to move somewhere cheaper which in effect means moving to the further outskirts of London where she knows no body and will have none of the support she currently enjoys where she is or pay £ 35 towards her rent leaving her with £122 p.w to live on which is £35.00 less than the absolute minimum the system currently calculates she and her child need . This system is said to be designed to incentivise people into work . She has a 2 year old child and a disability .and would never be able to find a job which she would be able to do and which would enable her to afford the cost of child care .
We explained the system to her as she found it impossible to accept that this was really happening and advised her to discuss with her doctor whether her disability was so bad that she might be entitled to DLA because if she received that she would be taken out of the cap system.
Joanna Kennedy, Cheif Executive of Z2K