Homeless at Christmas? Rugby family stuck in benefits red tape facing eviction - The Rugby Observer

Homeless at Christmas? Rugby family stuck in benefits red tape facing eviction

Andy Morris 7th Dec, 2016   0

EVICTED at Christmas – that is the fate of a ‘terrified’ family man who is too injured to work, thanks to ‘cruel’ delays in the new benefit system which have forced other Rugbeians into homelessness.

Father-of-two Mark Marsh was signed off from his HGV driving job in April with ‘crumbling spine syndrome’ which has left him housebound with blurred vision and constant headaches – the delayed aftermath of a car crash in 2001.

He has not received any payments since October when he and his family were transferred onto the new Universal Credit system – leaving him needing to use foodbanks to feed his partner and daughters, aged four and six.

With his sick pay exhausted and his partner’s minimum wage insufficient to pay the rent, the family have been told by their private landlord they will be evicted on Tuesday (December 13) – less than two weeks before Christmas.

At his ‘wit’s end’, he told The Observer: “We’re absolutely terrified we might become homeless. We don’t have anyone we could stay with.

“I have always worked and paid my dues, so I’m dumbfounded as to the stupidity of bureaucracy when its obvious that I’ve been claiming benefits since April for my family’s general wellbeing.

“They stop everything and give you no opportunity to build up any sort of fallback money, and yet they refuse to give you any no matter how dire your circumstances seem to be.”

The chair of Rugby’s Hope4 charity said cases like Mark’s were causing a rise in homelessness in the borough.

Rev Dr Michael Bochenski said: “The demand at Hope Centre is certainly increasing, and an issue which comes up time and time again is the complications of the Universal Credit system – in particular this cruel delay from the application to the first money coming in.

“In our experience, this typical seven week delay is adding to the pressures that lead people towards homelessness, and adding to the number of guests we see.”

Mark Pawsey MP said: “I was very concerned to learn about Mr Marsh’s situation and have arranged to meet with him this Friday. I will, of course, do everything I can to help him and his family and look forward to discussing his concerns in greater detail.”

A spokesman for Rugby Borough Council said: “We encourage anyone who is homeless, or threatened with homelessness, to contact us so we can offer information and advice on the housing options available.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “The reality is that under Universal Credit, people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system.

“Benefit advances and budgeting support is available to people who need them and we can arrange for rent payments to be made direct to landlords if needed.”

Universal Credit merges benefits and tax credits into a single monthly payment. It was introduced in Rugby in 2013.


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