Moving house

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.

Author: Latentexistence

The world is broken and I can't fix it because I am broken. I can, however, rant about it all and this is where I do that when I can get my thoughts together. Most of the time you'll find my words on Twitter rather than here though. I sometimes write for Where's The Benefit too.

12 thoughts on “Moving house”

  1. Hey,
    Thanks for posting this. It’s something I’ve been contemplating since hearing about the 70-something year old man that was forced to move out of the three-bedroom house he’d lived in all his life. I felt exactly the same way then.

    I started writing a pretty lengthy response to this and actually changed my mind about what I thought so many times I had to get rid. I just can’t quite work out where I am on it. Of course, I deeply sympathise with your situation and I don’t envy you at all, but I have this niggling thought that ‘why should someone living at the expense of the taxpayer live beyond the means of the taxpayer themself’? Bear in mind when I say this that I strongly believe that there needs to be a big rise in the minimum wage, so hopefully that goes some way to explaining my catch-22 of thought.

    I absolutely believe that if you are forced to move, they should offer you some sort of financial support to do so. I’m actually really quite shocked to hear though that they haven’t taken into consideration your illness before putting this on you. Is there not any way you can appeal against that decision, taking everything into account about your care and the impact of moving?

    At the same time, I don’t think that it’s necessary to have a spare bedroom. I say this with all due respect, but it is more of a luxury than a necessity. I once had to move from a house to a bedsit as a couple, getting rid of everything (not even room for a TV – eek!). And I worked from home. Such is life.

    Hopefully I haven’t caused any offense here, really hasn’t been my intention. I think I’ve mentioned before that I suffer from episodes of chronic pain, not nearly as bad as you it seems, but I could quite easily be in the same boat if I wasn’t fortunate enough to be able to work from home.

    So yeah, I’m in two minds. Hopefully you can see where I’m coming from.

    Sarah

    1. The flat steve is currently in is very small. the double bedroom barely fits in their bed (a king, but still, theres room for the bed and not a lot else – thank goodness for built in wardrobes) and there are issues with the ceiling in the bathroom completely uncaused by them but took forever to fix. meanwhile they lived with the danger of the ceiling caving in. A storage heater in the living room is broken. the fridge is shit. The small bedroom IS a cupboard. Their living room is also very small. This place is hardly the height of luxury by any means. I would also point out that we in britain have the smallest on average housing in all of europe.

      I live in the flat next door (hello, i’m steves sister) and my flat is much, MUCH bigger than theirs but only £25 more rent a month. Most rented accommodation in this area is more than the £450 the housing benefit allows for, even the one bedroom properties. Most are £475 and £500 plus.

      Why should people live at the expense of the taxpayer? because at one point or another, many of us taxpayers could realistically be in this situation. Steve and his wife are not lazy. They have not been like this all their life. His wife is a trained and capable teacher who has had to resort to cleaning work to try and bring in even a little bit of income, due to the area they live in being one of the most underfunded in the country for education. Steve is someone who is very frustrated by the fact his illness prevents him from working and has made great attempts to get work in his field of expertise (and he’s definately an expert) They have in the past, both had good jobs and bought in enough income.

      we pay our taxes to keep society running. We pay them so we can have healthcare, roads, public transport, lawful protection and social aid when we might need it. This is exactly that situation – and most people who are simply struggling to get back on their feet are messed around, degraded, treated like scum from all sides, while the people who are the real benefit cheats get away with it because they don’t CARE about being called scum. It means nothing. They still get their money as long as they know how to twist the system.

      We can’t keep saying crap like ‘WASTING TAXPAYERS MONEY’ when the money is being spent on taxpayers themselves, or potential taxpayers. It all feeds back into the system, except when it doesnt because the benefits trap is very real and exists. this is it. Pushed so low you can’t get back up again.

      1. “His wife is a trained and capable teacher who has had to resort to cleaning work to try and bring in even a little bit of income, due to the area they live in being one of the most underfunded in the country for education.”

        I can remember a time when it seemed, despite set backs, that the whole world could be Karen and Steve’s oyster. They have more degrees between them than most (I’m allowed to say that!).

        It’s really sad that it’s come to this.

        I think the state needs to differentiate between people who _have_ worked, and then need the state to help them through difficult times, and people who are able to work, but persistently choose not to. As you say Maria, it seems to fail miserably (though who knows – that’s quite a “Daily Mail” line!).

        But that’s outside our control.

        I reckon the absolute best thing you can do is find where in the world Karen’s teaching skills can give you both the best new start. Because, as you’ve accurately pointed out, if you have to rely on the state, you’re *******!

        Oh, and keep friends and family close if you can. But you can make new friends if you have to. And family will visit.

    2. I can see where you are coming from, and I’m not offended. I agree with you that when living at taxpayers expense costs should be kept to a minimum. The problem I see is that all the rules and procedures and recommendations leave no room for common sense. They take no account of individual situations and do not allow for sensible compromises.

      Consider, for example, that it will take six months to make up the cost of moving before we make a saving through reduced rent. In that six months, my wife may well find a job which could have paid for our current place, but won’t cover the costs of moving back again.

      Consider also that strict reduction of costs can have severe health implications, both causing health problems and preventing recovery. If I don’t recover, then I claim benefits forever.

  2. Atually the flat is tiny. If you knocked the two bedrooms into one it would still be small for a double.

  3. Hi Maria,

    Just want to clarify my point, ‘why should someone living at the expense of the taxpayer live BEYOND THE MEANS OF the taxpayer themself’. I’m very much aware of the importance of the welfare state and have many family members and friends that are and have been at the mercy of the system. I’ve also known a fair few people that have abused it.

    I’m not saying that we’re ‘wasting taxpayers money’, but I am saying that benefits should be proportionate to the circumstances, and it is something that should be reviewed regularly to remain so.

    If I did insinuate in any way that Steve and/or his wife were lazy or work-shy, that was absolutely not my intention and I apologise. I’ve been following him on Twitter for a little while now and it’s easy to see that the situation is quite the contrary.

    Steve (feels weird not saying @latentexistence :)),

    I absolutely see where you’re coming from. You’ve been put into an impossible situation. And I think the conclusion that I’ve come to is that it is in theory a good policy, but there needs to be some sort of appeal process so that people that are in positions like yours are not forced to move. There should also absolutely be some sort of financial support to make the move. Moving house is unaffordable to most people at the best of times.

    I’m going to throw this out there though and say that the condition/size of the place is, I think, irrelevant. It’s sort of pot-luck what you get on the rental market, and I’m sure with a bit of luck (although I appreciate there’s not much of that going around at the moment), you’ll find at least a nicer place, even if a bit smaller. I’ve lived in 17 different homes in my short 21 years, about to move onto the next, and the bigger and more expensive have not necessarily made me the happiest. Not trying to trivialise the point because I know what it’s like to live in the shittiest of the shittiest accommodation, but at the end of the day wherever you and your wife are – that is home.

    🙂

    1. i came across as too agressive. I used your comment as a springboard for a rant, so i apologise.

      I do think that rather than forcing people who have worked to give up their homes because of a temporary dip in work and finances, effort should be made to help keep people in the homes they are living in if it is not too expensive. For people like steve and his wife, the dip in work is temporary, and they are actively struggling to get out of that. I basically think the standards of acommodation are set too low – a 2 bedroom flat might be too big for a couple if it were twice the size of steven and karens. Maybe they should be doing the evaluating on the square feet rather than room numbers.

  4. Part of me is concerned that the same thing may happen to my Gran, who’s lived in the same 3 bed house for a very long time.

  5. Lots of problem to think about but the real problem is what you both earning is not enough for your daily expenses and even you can’t save either. What I do recommend is to look for more stable and better salary or get another job online. Your blog is good and you have great content too learn to monetize it and add more content that you think readers more benefit most and I’m suremoney come along.

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