An ESA case study

HMCourts&TribunalsBen had a road traffic accident 9 years ago, causing a serious back problem. Before the accident he was working as a builder, but because of his drastically reduced mobility and the intense pain he is no longer able to work. He now uses two crutches, and a mobility scooter to get about. He also suffers from depression.


In 2013 he was found to be eligible for Employment and Support Allowance. However, just over a year later, he was asked to attend another Work Capability Assessment. However, this time he was denied ESA on the grounds that his condition was unlikely to cause significant functional impairment. The decision maker from the Department of Work and Pensions also claimed that he was unlikely to experience significant problems mobilising. Continue reading

Case study: one woman’s struggle with the welfare state

Welfare Reform LogoWhen Welfare Reform is discussed it’s impact is almost always analysed in terms of one particular policy, isolated from the general picture. In the real world however those affected by Welfare Reform invariably experience a multitude of problems with the welfare system and are often affected by more than policy.

Carol is one such claimant. She is 61 years old and suffers from irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia and arthritis. Her condition is deteriorating and affects her nerves in her arms, hands, feet and knees. Her children now do all the cooking for her as she has repeatedly dropped objects or burned herself in the past and is no longer able to carry out basic activities as her condition has worsened. She is unable to lift or move a pint of milk or bulky objects even if they are light. Her mobility is made worse by cold or damp conditions in her property. Continue reading

Good outcomes for two Z2K clients

380_Image_child_poverty‘Anika’ was born and brought up in a middle class family in Uganda. At 14 she was caught kissing another girl at school. The 2 of them were publicly beaten with canes in front of the whole school. They were then expelled and Ms A went home to face an even worse beating from her father. For several years thereafter she experience repeated ‘corrective’ rape and beatings, until she was able to escape and to claim asylum in the UK.

Once she was granted asylum she was placed in bed and breakfast accommodation. She suffers very badly from post-traumatic stress disorder for which she is receiving support from the wonderful Helen Bamber Foundation, but was not assessed as being sufficiently ill or vulnerable  to be entitled to social housing  We helped her successfully appeal her points allocation and she has now been placed in social housing in Barking & Dagenham. She is still suffering badly, but having secure suitable accommodation has so improved her condition that she is now able to study so that she can, in due course, find a job and improve her situation further. Continue reading

Case Study: the human cost of welfare reform

Welfare Reform LogoMy role at Z2K is to help those families who are at risk of losing their home as a result of the Government’s Local Housing Allowance cap and Household Benefit cap.  Inevitably, that means I end up spending time with clients who are extremely distressed and in some cases at their wits end.  We will always do what we can to try to prevent these families being made homeless in the first place, but sometimes our pleas fall on deaf ears and there is nothing we can do to stop them being uprooted and sent to the suburbs or beyond, apart from trying to provide some emotional support to ease the disruption.

Ministers make great claims for how their Benefit Cap is encouraging claimants to return to work.  The jury is still out whether there is any truth in those claims.  But whenever I hear them, one of my clients always springs to mind.  “Leila” is in her late 30’s.  She has three young children, but is now divorced.  The family lived in Maida Vale, but they were among those whose entitlement to Housing Benefit was cut as a result of the Government’s original cap on LHA rates.  Inevitably, she fell behind with the rent and it wasn’t long before she was evicted.  After applying as homeless, Westminster City Council moved her to north London. The children had a roof over their heads, but she was isolated and lonely. Continue reading

(Un)affordable Rent and the Bedroom Tax

landlord-eviction-rightsJane approached our service because her Housing Benefit had been stopped due to a now resolved problem with her Employment and Support Allowance.  Jane’s landlord, Network Stadium, had successfully gained a Possession Order against her, largely because she was not represented at the hearing (she was in less than 8 weeks rent arrears at the time of the hearing but the landlord was successful on discretionary grounds alone).

Jane was now threatened with homelessness and explained to me that she had moved from her 2 bedroom council property in October 2013 due to the Bedroom Tax.  Jane explained that in her previous council property the rent was £150 per week, but in her new “Affordable Rent” property it was £255 per week.  Jane’s security of tenure had also been reduced from a life-long assured tenancy to a new 5 year fixed term tenancy under the rules introduced by the Localism Act 2011. Continue reading