Former rough sleepers face being thrown out of their home again after universal credit delays
PUBLISHED: 11:48 31 January 2019 | UPDATED: 08:49 01 February 2019
Copyright: Archant 2019
A father and son say they are at risk of becoming homeless again after facing difficulties with universal credit.
The new benefits system has come under fire with claimants stating they are facing adverse effects from the six-week wait for the benefit switch over and being hundreds of pounds worse off.
It is a harsh reality both John Mulley, 55, and his son Joshua, 21, of Racecourse Road, Norwich, are all too familiar with.
They are both former rough sleepers, having spent the best part of six months sleeping in a tent in a homeless camp near Marriott’s Way, behind the Halfords store in Barker Street, in 2016.
The pair had previously been sleeping rough in Scarborough, Yorkshire, after Mr Mulley’s disability living allowance (DLA) was switched to Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
“We were alright, we had everything up and running until PIP took over, and then universal credit,” Mr Mulley said.
“When I first signed on, it was around eight weeks my benefits stopped when it went from DLA to PIP, I didn’t realise I wasn’t getting any money.
“We were in too much debt with our landlord, we didn’t have £4,000 to hand and we were given an eviction notice.”
In February 2016, they travelled to Norwich to begin a new life, and after a turbulent year sleeping on the streets and staying at various shelters and temporary accommodation they were finally housed in July 2017.
The pair receive around £400 in benefits between them a month, more than half of the £1,600 Mr Mulley claimed they had received before benefit changes came into effect.
And while there are criticisms of so-called ‘benefit scroungers’ who live off welfare, Mr Mulley responded: “Fair enough, but they should give people enough so they can have a good standard of living.”
Although in a better place, memories of their distressing past still haunts them, especially for Joshua who suffers from mental ill health.
His severe anxiety makes it difficult for him to communicate with others, and remnants of his tortured life is visible in the self-inflicted scars across his arms.
But history is about to repeat itself once again after they received a notice seeking possession from their landlord on January 21 - the first stage of legal action for possession of his home.
Late last year, Mr Mulley was sanctioned by universal credit for failing to attend an appointment and so from November 29 he had only £46 to live on until the sanction was lifted.
He and his son had to rely on donations in order to survive and spent Christmas Day at the Norwich Open Christmas at St Andrew’s Hall.
They also got by with the kind help from close friend Lee Hardy, 48, of Rosary Lane, who was formerly homeless for 30 years.
Mr Mulley’s benefits to pay for his rent goes directly to his landlord of which he still needs to pay around £69 on top every month.
In late December, Mr Mulley received money which he believed was his universal credit benefits, but it was later found to be his rent money which was accidently paid into his bank account after a “clerical error” made by his work coach.
This has left him in rent arrears again and his landlord has served him a notice seeking possession after his rent was not paid.
A universal credit spokesman said they are helping Mr Mulley to resolve the matter with his landlord, while Mr Mulley said he will be seeking advice from homeless charity Shelter.
A spokesman from universal credit said they have offered Mr Mulley significant support, including paying for courses to develop his English and IT skills and gain a fork-lift licence to improve his employment prospects.