The letter that you see on the page below is a demand for rent arrears money received recently by a very young Stratford woman I know. This young woman has been through the wringer on the emotional and domestic fronts this year. I’m not giving details here, but her situation has been very difficult. She’s had an experience that nobody would envy.
Financially, things are in tatters. Earlier this year, her benefits were stopped for a while and then reduced. Her housing benefit doesn’t cover her whole rent, there were payment problems a while back that nobody at this end entirely understands (I’ve looked through the relevant papers and I don’t get it), and she falls further behind in her payments each week. She will be evicted and made homeless unless her council and landlord can be talked around.
It seems unlikely that the council and her landlord will be talked around at this stage. You can see from the letter that her landlord wants £66 a week in payments towards her rent shortfall and arrears, and that eviction and homelessness are very much on the cards. That £66 is an impossible amount for someone whose weekly benefit payment is not much more than that. There’s more, too. Apparently, this young woman just heard that the DWP will start deducting money from her benefit each week for a loan repayment. She recently had a bailiff threat hand-delivered through the door for £746 for an old travel fine that she says wasn’t hers (you can see that demand below). It never stops – demand after demand for money, costs and god knows what else.
Needless to say, this young woman stopped coping with this situation a long time ago. She can’t respond to the torrent of mail, so she ends up responding to none of it. I see this time and time again. The problems get so big that people try to ignore them. The endless post goes unopened, calls are ignored and people fall further behind each day. I don’t know what the planned end game is for people in these situations. Permanent homelessness? Debtors’ jail? The workhouse? Can’t be anything good:
The point of this post? – to remind the world that people in these situations exist, even though government insists that they shouldn’t. Doesn’t matter if the electorate – or parts of it – voted for austerity and against social security. Doesn’t matter if government and the so-called opposition insist that people simply need to pull themselves together to get out of holes. Here people are all the same. Debts pile up, the bailiffs are always circling, court action is always on the horizon, and threatening letters cascade through the door. You either have the money, or the means, or even the mental health, I guess, to drag yourself out of breakdown, or you don’t. If you don’t, you sink. I suppose that’s the idea.