Housing Benefit Arithmetic

Housing benefit is a much needed lifeline to those who need it – that is simply the way it is.

I have been approached by an Edinburgh citizen whose Housing Benefit difficulties are beyond understanding. How stressful does it need to get?

This friend has a 13-year-old disabled son and the Housing Benefit authorities say her flat is “oversized” because she has a spare room. Her rent is £1100 a month. The housing allowance she should be entitled to is about £600 a month. (I’ve calculated her entitlement on the council website – it should be about £600 each month, as a single parent of a disabled child over 11.) She’s not unemployed – she works 16 hours a week for minimum wage – that’s £94.88 weekly earned income.

Overall, this person’s Housing Benefit has ranged from just over £500 per month but gradually dribbled down to an amount of just over £200 per month. How would you like to cope with that on an already stretched budget? Truly dreadful.

This “housing allowance” for Edinburgh – I can’t understand how a mother with a disabled teenage son doesn’t even get enough to cover the rent of a two-bedroomed flat. They say her flat is “oversized” because she has a spare room (the penalty for “under-occupation” in the UK government’s Welfare Reform Act which wasn’t supposed to be law in Scotland yet) but the average monthly rent of a 2-bedroomed flat anywhere in the EH1 to EH12 postcodes will be over £600.

The graph below shows what the Housing Department reckon (not to use too strong a word) that this person’s “other income” is. There are 10 sets of figures upon which to expose the flawed delivery of Housing Benefit. 4 sets of the figures were produced on the same day (all different!), then 5 sets of figures produced on another day (all different!) then another figure produced this month (different again!).

Edinburgh Council Housing Department arithmetic

Housing benefit – could this be why Edinburgh Council is in 7th place out of 10 Scottish Urban Councils for “administration of benefits “– administration?

This lady’s had two threats of eviction from her landlord because of Housing Benefit being held and not processed.

But now her housing benefit has been cut again because the housing department are claiming she’s got another source of income, which varies between twenty and twenty-nine thousand pounds a year on top of her earned income.

Trouble is, “other income” has not changed – the person works 16 hours per week on minimum
wage – how could the weekly income change four or five times on the same day anyway? Here’s why this person is struggling badly.

Her actual annual earned income is just under £5000 a year. The “Any other income” they keep dobbing in varies by over nine thousand a year depending apparently what time of day the calculation is being done. Ten different sums on three days, and this is income that doesn’t exist.

No one can explain it and no one seems bothered to explain it. Two week delay on answering the email, by which time the lady could be stacking her belongings into a cardboard box and living on the street – well done the housing Benefit department.

This is what the lady herself says:

This has been happening every month for the past six months. There’s been no change in circumstances but they keep saying there is. Every time I contest it they suspend ny housing benefit.

I got an eviction notice, I told the council about it, and though I managed to pay the rent somehow by asking friends and family for help so that I wasn’t evicted on 19th December, on that day I got another notice from the council saying that they’d suspended my housing benefit because I’d “moved house” – ie had been evicted. Sent to the address that they thought I was no longer supposed to be living in because if I hadn’t managed to borrow the rent due I’d have been evicted.

And they’re just so unhelpful. Every time I go up there they’re just typical pen-pushing couldn’t care less jobsworth.

Every month I get a new notice and none of them make sense. And in fact Gordon told me about a person who used to work in the Housing Benefit and he left after six months or so because he was so disgusted – their task was to reduce everyone’s benefit as much as possible.

I’m on antidepressants now because of this.

This lady has my support but I’m banging my head against the wall. You can spend three or more hours in the queuing system at the Housing Department just waiting your turn to talk to someone. Edinburgh is 7th in urban councils in Scotland for “administration costs per benefits case”. I wonder what 8, 9, and 10 are like.

A man I know worked for the Edinburgh housing department for a few months and he left disgusted – he said that the way the HB staff were supposed to operate was, start off with the figure people are entitled to and then you were supposed to get it lower. If true that’s outrageous. The Housing Benefit staff should be there to help people who are struggling, not making their life even worse. No one I’ve talked to who has any experience of dealing with the housing benefit system has a good word to say about it.

Thank you for your e-mail. Due to high volumes of correspondence our current target response time is within 2 weeks of receiving your email.

Did you know?

You may be able to find the answer to your query online at www.edinburgh.gov.uk

This lady’s looked and can’t find an answer why she’s getting so many different calculations of her income and getting her housing benefit suspended every time she contests it. Nor can I.

3 Responses to “Housing Benefit Arithmetic”

  1. Gordon Murdie Says:

    THREE more printouts. All dated 19th April, received 27th April. Astonishingly, yet another new figure and two the same as one of the FIVE run on 27th March. “Overpayment” has now moved downwards by no less than £557.82 because of “recalculation of benefit”. Anyone else suffering in a similar way and care to guess “higher” or “lower” for the next batch of “calculations”? This is dreadful.

  2. Gina Davidson Says:

    Hi Gordon. Do you think this lady might talk to us on the record about her situation?
    Gina Davidson (Evening News)

    • Gordon Murdie Says:

      Dear Gina
      As e-mailed, the lady is happy to meet up and give you all the reams of conflicting calculations but would prefer not to be identified.
      Kind regards
      Gordon Murdie

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