The Student

Council gives temporary housing to mother of three hit by benefit cap

Following local protests, Melissa Gaynor, a mother of three forced to leave her privately rented home due to a cap on her benefits, has been provided with temporary housing by the City of Edinburgh Council.

Gaynor and her three young children, Ronald, eight, Tyler, six and Riley, four, had no option but to leave their privately rented property in Wardieburn, North Edinburgh following the implementation of the UK Government’s benefit cap.

As a result of the cap, Gaynor’s benefits were cut leaving her required to cover £372 of her £785 monthly rent herself, despite being unemployed with no other income.

The City of Edinburgh Council was unable to offer Gaynor and her family any accommodation other than in a hostel which catered for people with mental health and addiction problems, which she declined.

Instead, Gaynor told Edinburgh Evening News, she was required to ‘sofa surf’ while her three children were cared for by her sister.

The Council has now provided temporary accommodation for the Gaynor family in a sixth floor flat in Muirhouse, however, it may take up to 18 months for the family to secure permanent housing.

A protest was held at the West Pilton housing office by other mothers from North Edinburgh, many of whom are similarly at imminent risk of eviction, to pressure the Council into providing Gaynor and her children with suitable temporary accommodation.

Following the UK Local Council elections, campaigners also protested at the opening session of the new council administration in over the potential eviction of 11 other families in North Edinburgh.

Pauline Nicol-Brownie, who helped to organise the protest at the West Pilton housing office told Edinburgh Evening News, “The protest was worthwhile but it’s just the start of future campaigning.

“We’re coming across more and more people who are in the same situation with the benefits cap.”

Gaynor’s family is not alone in being seriously impacted by the benefit cap.

She told Edinburgh Evening News that, “Two of my friends have been told they have to be out [of their properties] by June 19. They’ve got seven kids between them.”

The benefit cap was introduced by the Conservative Government in November 2016 and capped the maximum any household could receive in benefits to £20,000 per year for a couple or family with children outside of London.

Opposition parties and poverty charities have been vocal in their criticism of the new policy, under which almost 50,000 low-income families and 126,000 children will be at risk of financial hardship as a result of the cap.

According to Government statistics, released in February, the cap will leave 50 per cent of those affected by the cap with a shortfall of £50 per week.

Almost 75 per cent of families affected are single-parent households and approximately 75 per cent of those have a child under 5, The Independent reports.

The poverty charity, Turn2Us, told the Parliamentary Work and Pensions Committee that pregnant women were expressing concern over the amount of welfare they would be entitled to with some women stating, “the outcome will help them decide whether they continue with the pregnancy or terminate it.”

The Conservative Government have defended the policy, citing a statement from the Department of Work and Pensions released this month which stated, “since the benefit cap was introduced, around 29,000 households who previously had their benefits capped have moved into work – an increase of 3,000 in the last quarter.”

At a debate in the Scottish Parliament, Minister for Social Security in Scotland, Jeane Freeman, condemned the Conservative Government’s policy, highlighting that it will affect 36,000 households, 11,000 in Scotland alone.

She said the cap was leaving some families £200 worse off per week, and that the cap is, “increasing hardship and difficulty for already vulnerable households and children. The UK Government should reverse this policy.”

Image: Tom Page