Here’s a scenario that I’ve seen several times now: a woman facing homelessness after losing her kids in a custody battle that she couldn’t afford to fight.
One of the women I’ve written about several times for this blog has been in touch to say that she is facing eviction and homelessness. She has serious rent arrears – thousands of pounds. She has an eviction notice and will be thrown out her flat.
This woman is facing street homelessness. The arrears and eviction likely mean that her council won’t help her find housing. They’ll decide that she’s responsible for her eviction – that she’s made herself intentionally homeless.
Except that things aren’t quite that simple. They rarely are.
This woman is in arrears for two reasons:
The first is the benefit cap. The arrears began when the benefit cap was applied. The woman lost over half of her housing benefit entitlement literally overnight. There was no way she could make up this sudden loss of rent money.
The second reason is that the woman recently lost custody of her children. This was brutal. I can’t give much detail here, but I’ve seen this scenario several times.
The woman’s relationship with her ex-partner ended acrimoniously. Her much-better-resourced ex lawyered up and went to court for the kids. The character assassination this woman endured during this case was nasty.
So was the woman’s isolation. She had no money and no lawyer for most of the time (she scraped together a bit of money for advice early on, but couldn’t keep that going on any level. She didn’t have any money). This woman was one of the thousands of people who are now forced to represent themselves in bitter, convoluted and drawn-out custody fights. Even getting basic advice about entitlements and rights was impossible. She never had a chance.
So – the rent arrears. Already in debt, the woman stopped receiving housing benefit (Universal Credit in her case) for the bedrooms that her children had occupied. She couldn’t meet rent payments at all. The thing is completely out of hand.
She’ll be evicted soon.
God knows what happens after that. I guess that at best, she’ll find a crappy studio flat somewhere – if she can scrape together money for a deposit and rent, and find a landlord who accepts Universal Credit claimants who’ve been evicted for serious rent arrears. At worst, she’ll be street homeless. She’ll have no chance of getting her kids back without a place for them to stay.
Any constructive suggestions on this situation are welcome. I’ve interviewed three women in the same situation in recent times. There must be a way of getting legal representation and housing for people.