I seem to have fallen foul of publicly recorded ConDem lies.
In the Welfare Reform Bill debate the Conservative Lord Freud advised individuals in under-occupied Social Housing properties to take in a lodger to protect themselves against bedroom tax or forced downsizing.
I am an individual with a serious disability, I am also a parent carer to two children with serious disabilities. I am a divorced individual, my partner could not deal with the high levels of needs of my children and I. Around 4 years ago my marriage began to break down and domestic abuse commenced. I behaved responsibly throughout, I gave evidence in Court and my former partner was convicted of assault and an indefinite restraining order was put in place.
I should make it clear that I have no family to help or support me – I have been drifting along managing the needs of my children and I with the help of friends.
Late last year my medical condition began to change for the worst, I began to exhibit serious Multiple Sclerosis symptoms. I was suffering vision loss, hearing loss, crippling muscle spasms, tremors, significant muscle wasting down my left side and fatigue. I became even more reliant on my friends to help me meet the needs of my children and I.
As a result of the fear I felt when alone in my home, fear of falling and hurting myself; fear that I would not be able to care for my children, fear that I would lose my disability extended adapted under-occupied home, I invited a friend who had been helping me meet my needs for over 3 years to move in as a lodger. This held two advantages for me, I would no longer be under-occupied and I would have someone to keep an eye on my children and I at night. If I employed a private care company to provide a night sitting service it would cost me in excess of £420 a week.
I took advice from CAB in relation to making a lodger application. I followed the advice given by Lord Freud. I made an application to my Social Landlord to take in a lodger, the Landlord was unsure how to deal with the application and had to take advice. My Local Authority Councillor pressed my landlord for a timely decision. After a couple months of the Landlord considering the request, it was granted with the advice to contact the Housing and Council Tax Section at the Local Authority and the DWP’s Income Support section – which I did immediately by telephone in May prior to the lodger taking up residence at my property. I was advised by both the Local Authority and the DWP to put the change in my circumstance in writing, which again I immediately did. A few weeks later he Local Authority requested a copy of the rent book I had supplied to the lodger, I produced it within 24 hours of receiving the request. The CAB had advised me that I didn’t have to have a rent book, but its good practice to do so – so I followed their good practice advice.
A few days later I received a form from the DWP’s Income Support section, which I had to submit outlining the rent payable – I filled in and returned this form. A few weeks later I received a letter asking me to attend a change of circumstance interview – as a recipient of higher rate DLA the advisors had always conducted interviews over the telephone or they attended my home. On this occasion they demanded I attend their office. I arranged for a carer to attend with me as I also had my wheelchair bound child with me. I was questioned on how the lodger kept his food – I answered in his own fridge and freezer and separately allocated kitchen cupboards. I was asked about laundry, I advised the lodger took care of their own. I was asked to produce my bank statements which were scrutinised, they were looking for joint finances or financial commitments – there were none. I was asked who had parental responsibility for my children, I replied I do. I was asked do I share a social life with my lodger, I replied no although we do sit and watch tv in the lounge on occasion. The DWP officer who interviewed me advised me that all was ok.
A week later the DWP cancelled my Income Support payments, my housing and council tax benefit payments were stopped and my tax credits required that I terminate my claim, because – “You have told us you have a partner.” I was advised to make a joint tax credit claim, my lodger would not provide details of his income so I could make a joint claim – because he wasn’t my partner. I phoned the DWP and told them I have not advised you I have a partner, they said they had adjudicated I have a partner. I asked them why they came to this decision, they could not tell me why. They then told me to submit an appeal, how on earth can you submit an appeal when you don’t know what your appealing against?
I wrote them a letter requesting that the original decision maker again look at the evidence that I had taken in a lodger and not a partner. The letter was hand delivered by a carer at 11am in the morning on a Thursday. At 12 midday I received a phone call from a compliance officer advising she had received the letter and she was personally taking the letter upstairs to the decision maker. I asked that the decision was looked at again immediately as my two severely disabled children and I were insolvent and I didn’t know how I was going to pay my rent or feed my children now that benefit had been withdrawn. I was told the decision would take a few days. I contacted Income Support the following Monday, they advised me that they had only received my request that day – I told them that isn’t true, they disputed they had received it on the Thursday previously. I was told the consideration would take 4 days, phone back on Thursday.
I contacted Income Support on Thursday as advised, they stated someone would phone me back. An hour later an appeals officer phoned me and told me that my ‘appeal’ was being formally considered by an appeals office. I asked why it had been transferred to an appeals office at this stage as I was advised the original decision maker should look at the decision before I submitted a formal appeal. The appeals officer advised that my letter contained the word appeal, so it was an appeal. I was then further advised that my appeal could take up to 10 weeks to be adjudicated upon. I told the appeals officer I could not wait 10 weeks, I hadn’t eaten for a week already – I am significantly unweight due to my illnesses already, I am effectively starving. The officer stated they would request my paperwork from the DWP office that dealt with the decision and to phone in a week or so to see if a decision had been progressed.
So this is the stage I’m at. I gave the lodger immediate notice to leave my property as soon as the original decision was made. The lodger has now located an alternative address and is due to move out next week as soon as the rented property has a new kitchen fitted. The relationship between my lodger and I is now strained because I told them that I would be allowed to take in a lodger. The lodger also undertook carer jobs for me such as shopping and transporting me when I was unable to drive, I am now without this support.
Several months ago I wrote to Lord Freud asking what protection I have against being accused of cohabiting if I took in a lodger. The Lord never bothered to furnish me with an answer. It is my belief that Lord Freud wilfully misled this Country during the Welfare Reform Bill debates and his suggestion to take in a lodger was yet another way to remove individuals welfare benefits by stealth.
If my benefits are re-instated once the DWP look at the situation again, I will be terminating my claim for Income Support – I will manage on my Tax Credit entitlement. You may ask why do I not intend to claim what I’m entitled to? I have been misled, lied to, treated as scum and forced to the point I am considering suicide by Income Support. I have already written my suicide note, I have it ready to send to my local coroner and the Guardian Newspaper outlining the DWP and Lord Freud’s abuse toward my children and I. I pray that I am strong enough to to get through this situation without resorting to ending my life.