I faced a massive sudden change in my life, the loss of my job. It was completely unexpected, brought about by pandemic restructuring. The change caused me trauma and left me with mental health illness.
The benefits system, Universal Credit application process, only added more stress to my complex situation/circumstances.
The system lacked empathy, compassion, respect and treated me with very little dignity. I was left me feeling like I was a burden, I had brought about the situation of unemployment.
My work history & tax contributions of 30 + years didn't mean anything. I felt a very deep sense of disloyalty and abandonment at my time of need. On top of losing my job, fighting to stay well I had to cope with having to survive financially by turning to my savings.
I paid my£600 rent on time and in full on the 1st of every month before and throughout lockdowns. My private had made no attempt to contact me within the 3 years I and my daughter stayed in the flat.
Out of the blue, in lockdowns, I started to receive phone calls from the landlord's wife that the neighbours (in their own bought flats) had called them and complained I was causing damage in communal areas of the block of flats. I found this strange as the neighbours never came to me direct and how did they have my landlord's phone number as they moved away across the country. These absurd phone calls became more regular and the landlord and his wife decided to visit.
They picked faults of our living conditions. It was not a show house, it was lived in and I had a basket of washing sitting to be ironed. The landlord's wife made a fuss saying I was not coping mentally. She went into my daughter's bedroom without permission. My daughter has autism and the landlord and wife did not respect us. My daughter was struggling with her mental health at the time and became distressed as the landlord's wife sat on her bed announcing she was a retired social worker and it was clear that we were not coping.
I lost my temper and shouted for them to leave.
Landlord did not adhere to laws and give 24 hours notice to visit. He would sit outside my flat early in morning and wait for me to leave as he mentioned he had a key and could enter his property any time he liked.
Police and the private rental housing officer of council played it down as lockdowns were causing tempers to rise.
One morning the landlord pushed his way in and both my duaghter and myself pushed against the door. He put his foot in the door and shouted we were attacking him! I called police who said it was a domestic and we needed to calm down. They did not come out to flat. I called all services who supported my daughter who is autistic. None were available and all working from home. They were not allowed to enter my flat due to council covid restrictions.
Finally a kind volunteer from Citizens Advice came out and arranged a time with landlord to have a discussion.
Turned out that this was typical bully behaviour of private landlords who wanted to evict tenants but not want to go through proper court procedures as it costs.
There was no reason to evict us. The communal repairs were due to the neighbours not having home insurance and blamed me to get my landlord to pay. They were all in cahoots.
Inside the flat, the landlord had failed to maintain gas boiler annual checks and the 5 year electricity checks. He broke the law.
The lease was not legal binding as it was printed from the Internet and used American legal jargon.
The landlord owned other properties and the tenants could not pay rent in lockdowns and he wanted to sell all his properties as soon as lockdowns lifted.
I had done nothing wrong, but the impact of the bullying landlord still affects the mental health of both my daughter and myself.
I found another private house which was more expensive but was in better condition of the only 2 homes up for rent. I got into debt with a high interest loan to pay the deposit. The council offered to support financially for deposit and white goods but took 12 weeks to process the application that stated 28 days turnaround. By that time we were already in our new home. The council refused to reimburse me.
I had no washing machine or fridge freezer for first few months and had to buy second hand and pay a local man to plumb in washing machine. With high interest payments on the land for removals and deposit. We were in poverty.
Again citizens advice came to the rescue with organising lower loan repayments.
We been here 18 months now... The house is cold an damp not insulated. No carpet downstairs yet. Draughts can be felt from windows when shut. Black mould growing on front of house walls. Minor repairs are not being done letter box broke off and can see daylight through a gap. Energy bills are very high.
Leasing agent is kind but making excuses of the damp being caused by walls sweating due to pictures on walls. We took pictures off walls, cleaned the mould off and 2 months later there is more black mould.
I am paying over the benefit limit and the energy bills are still high even though I received cost of living payments, the bills are not any lower.
Looking for a more affordable home is near impossible as rent prices are up again over the housing benefit limit.
As it currently stands, I don’t have a huge amount of contact with the DWP, other than through my online journal. Anytime I have an issue I usually contact them via this method. I recently had an issue with rent payments being missing, which was incredibly nerve wracking as my landlord (a housing association) was calling me to chase the payment. I spoke to someone who didn’t appear sympathetic nor concerned, and their tone and manner on the phone was abrupt and accusatory. Eventually the missing payment was reinstated, but it left me feeling like I had done something wrong. I feel the DWP need to learn how to speak to people properly, to have some care and respect for the claimants they are talking to because most people are just trying to keep their families together and live as stress free as possible.
It’s absolutely awful. They speak down to you like they are better than you, treat you like nothing and expect you to be able to get a job really easy despite having no childcare, lack of jobs and having disabilities. Sometimes they remind you that people in wheelchairs can get a job so so can you.. you do everything they ask and it’s not enough! They’re not compassionate if you miss an appointment due to kids being unwell or your disability, they pressure you by saying they will stop your money. They send you last minute appointments at stupid hours like 8am, they cancel and don’t tell you. You get attitude and made to feel guilty that you can’t work full time or that you need a crisis grant. I’d sooner starve than apply for another one.
An apology to Bon Jovi!
🎶Stabbed through the heart
And you're to blame
Are bad things!🎶
Nothing tells you more that you are skint and living in poverty than the fact that you're sat on the sofa mending your 3 bras that all went 'twang!' at the same time and because of your cleavage requirement, you need a specific size to fit well but you cannot afford to buy any more. All that whilst sitting in a cold house running at 13 degrees C whilst watching "The Handmaid's Tale" on Amazon Prime. Whilst we are not living in in the fictional country of Gilead, we might as well be as poverty disproportionately affect disabled lone female parents than any other groups. The only reason it could be worse would be if I didn't have the privilege of being educated, white and a fluent English-speaker. As a benefit claimant, I may get the disrespect, but at least I don't have to cope with hate and racism on top. For that I need to count my blessings.
How do you cope when your own family treat you like dirt?
When they say you are a benefit scrounger. You use and abuse the system?
Call you lazy and worthless?
They are never there to support you through the difficult times.
They kick you like a dog when you're down.
What do you do? When it hurts?