I’m living on Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and because of that I receive Housing Benefit to pay the rent. Now my wife and I are being forced to move house to keep costs down. According to the rules, as a couple with no dependant children, my wife and I are only entitled to a single bedroom, and therefore they will only pay a maximum of £103.56 per week. (£448.76 per calendar month) We currently live in a two bedroom flat which costs us £121.15 per week (£525 pcm) so there is something of a shortfall there and we are struggling to pay the rent. Additional problems with our housing benefit are making things even harder. (My wife is registered with seven different employment agencies ranging from teaching to cleaning but still barely gets two days work per week, and the council can’t cope with variable income from multiple sources.) We went to look at a place earlier today. It’s too small, has no storage, smells of damp, and is next to a noisy main road and a noisy pub, but we will probably have to take it.
So why shouldn’t we have to move house? Well to start with, we can’t afford it. I’m sick and claiming benefits and my wife has so little temp work that she is claiming Job Seekers Allowance this week. Where am I going to come up with agency fees of £396? On top of that, we have to cover the costs of a months rent and a deposit in advance, at least until we get our deposit back from our current home, so that’s another £1,000, plus find money to purchase a fridge, a washing machine and a wardrobe, because our current ones came with the flat and the new place doesn’t have them. That’s at least another £200 even if everything is second hand. We’re a month behind with our rent, how the hell are we supposed to find £1,600? We can’t. We’re utterly reliant on other people giving us money to even contemplate moving at all. And if we don’t move then we still have to magically find £75 per month from nowhere, even before we allow for the catastrophe that is our housing benefit calculations.
Then, there is my care and support. On the rare occasions when my wife does have work, I’m on my own. On a bad day, which is a lot of them right now, I can’t even get out of bed. I’m on my own for getting food. Fortunately, I live next door to my sister, and five minutes from my parents. I currently rely on my sister to help me nearly every day. When I had a hypo and ended up in a heap on the floor, minutes away from blacking out if I didn’t get help, I was able to call for my sister to rescue me. Once I have moved house, I will be at least ten minutes, probably fifteen, away from help from my mother or my sister. If I collapse in a heap, and somehow manage to get to a phone, I will be more likely to call an ambulance than family. How much does does it cost to send out an ambulance? Who will bring me food and drink and help me walk to the bathroom in future? If my family can’t easily provide that help, I might be asking the council to provide care in future. How much does that cost?
We already moved from a very large flat into a slightly poky two bedroom flat, and threw out loads of stuff during that move. Now we have to throw out pretty much all of the rest of our possessions to fit in a one bedroom flat. Admittedly we do use the second bedroom largely for storage and drying washing, but it is basically space that we need and use. The new place has no room to set up our computer table either, so if my wife does get a teaching job, she has nowhere to prepare or mark school work. When she gets occasional work marking exams, she will barely have room to do it. If I recover enough to work from home, I won’t have any space to do it in. In all likelihood, this will prevent me from going back to work, and will not allow me to slowly return to activity. I basically have to recover enough to work from my office again before I can go back to work. Without building up slowly, recovery is less likely. Even moving house is going to set my health back weeks.
All this ranting isn’t going to change anything, of course. The bureaucracy says move, and so move we must. Future problems be damned.