Young mother suffering anxiety as a result of benefit cap upheaval

The Housing Executive is trying to secure a long-term home for a mother of four from Shantallow who fears the benefit cap, introduced to the North last year, could put her out on the street.

Tuesday, 14th March 2017, 8:00 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 11:02 am

The woman, who has asked not to be named, was stricken with panic when a letter dropped through her door telling her she was in rent arrears because her housing benefit had been reduced following the birth of her youngest child just after Christmas.

Following the introduction of the benefit cap the Shantallow woman’s total benefits are not allowed to exceed £500 per week or £26,000 per year.

But the arrival of a fourth child three months ago and the associated increase in child benefits tipped her above the limit.

The Department for Communities wrote: “You are currently receiving a supplementary payment of £6.70 per week as you were affected by the introduction of the Benefit Cap.

“The Housing Executive has informed us that, due to a change in your circumstances your Housing Benefit had been further reduced.

“Unfortunately, regulations to not allow for a corresponding increase in your Benefit Cap supplementary payment.

“We will continue to pay £6.70 per week. You will be responsible for making up any shortfall in your rent payments.”

But the young mother can’t. She has four dependant children and is suffering from depression as a result of the threat of homelessness.

“I’ve just had a baby three months ago. I’m on my own with four children. I’m suffering severe depression,” she said.

“I haven’t eaten in days. I’m stressed out. My ‘situation changed’. I had a baby. They failed to tell me that I had to pay housing rent, only until last week, and I was already four weeks in arrears with the landlord and I didn’t know anything about it. I’m basically going to be homeless with my children because I can’t afford it,” she claimed.

The young mother said her current home, which she can no longer afford, was provided by the Housing Executive as a temporary measure until a long term home can be found.

The Housing Executive said: “We are currently working with the tenant to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.

“She has been awarded ‘Full Duty Applicant’ (FDA) status, which is given to an applicant who meets the four statutory tests of; homelessness, eligibility, priority need and unintentionally homeless.

“The tenant is living in temporary accommodation and remains on the homeless waiting list until a permanent housing solution can be found.”