Homeless fears for benefits cut family

Leonie Clarke
Leonie Clarke

A single mother with seven children fears she could be made homeless because of cuts to her benefits.

Leonie Clarke lives in a four-bedroom BPHA housing association home in Moore Close, Wootton.

But she says that she has been left in a “nightmare” situation since coming home one day 16 months ago to discover she had had her benefits cut two months earlier without anybody telling her.

Leonie told the T&C: “My dad had just died in hospital and when I got back there was a repossession order.

“I contacted BPHA and they told me I was in arrears. All I could tell them was that I had no idea.”

Leonie has lived in the house for more than four years.

Her children are aged from 20 years to 10 months, but while none are in full-time employment the 19-year-old is currently on a bricklaying apprenticeship.

Before the changes in April Leonie received £1,577 in benefits. This had been more but in 2015 she had issues with income support claims in 2015.

Now she receives £1,300 a month. Her outgoings have increased because of cuts to her housing and council tax benefits.

The BPHA took Leonie to court in December, resulting in her having to pay £960 a month for rent and arrears.

“I had no choice but to agree or I’d lose the house,” said Leonie. “I’ve been trying to make payments. I always make the rent, even if I don’t make the arrears. But some months I have to go to the foodbank just to feed my children. Then this month I got a notice from BPHA saying I’ve breached the order that was given to me in February. Because of that they’re going to seek a warrant for eviction.”

Leonie has previously worked in childcare but her benefits are now her only income.

She said: “My children all need new clothes but they are going without. Food is the main thing. I’m not able to do a proper weekly shop – I’ve spoken to loads of debt and finance advisors who say that for the size of my family I should be spending £300 a week on food. I often don’t even spend a quarter of that.”

Julie Wittich, of BPHA, said : “We cannot comment on individual cases but we assist residents in paying their rent.”

“We only take court action to end a tenancy when advice and assistance has failed and a resident still does not pay their rent.”