Hi, I'm Melissa. I was a busy single mum and had not had a stay in the hospital since my son was born. Money was tight and I was struggling a lot. I started getting paranoia and soon was so ill my son went to stay with his dad. He was 10 at this stage, he will be 12 in December.
I went to stay with my parents, hoping I would recover. This didn't work as I ran out of medication and became worse. I'm not sure how it happened but on my return to the country, I was sectioned under the mental health act and was stuck in The Warnford for a three-month stay. They put me on an antipsychotic.
Soon after leaving the hospital I took up using heroin and crack as my son didn't want to see me, and I felt like a failure as a mother. Realising I had a problem, I went to a recovery charity, and they put me on a methadone prescription.
I have a mental health social worker who sees me weekly, to help me with my needs. They accompanied me to a medical assessment for my employment and support allowance. Several weeks passed and I heard nothing, then - thinking my money had been stopped - I applied for Universal Credit. On my arrival, they told me that my medical was a success and they had put me in the support group for the next year. They said that this meant I didn't have to apply for Universal Credit.
At that point on, unbeknownst to me, my housing benefit was suspended, as I had attended the Universal Credit appointment. This was in April, and I am still having problems with my mental health, and with avoiding opening up my past. When I finally did do this, I found out that I had a Seeking Possession and a court action warning against me. Discovering that I owed over £1000 in rent arrears, I quickly asked my social worker for help.
Amazingly, I then learned that I cannot backdate the benefit payments that I should have received over the past few months. This leaves me having built up a significant amount in rent arrears from when I was not receiving benefits, with no way of paying them off quickly. I can afford £63 per month out of my universal credit. However, in two weeks time, my landlord has the power to evict me if I have not fully paid off what I owe.
Barry, Melissa's support worker says: Melissa's Universal Credit payments are enough to pay her rent long term, but are not enough to pay her arrears. If these arrears are not paid off, there is a significant risk of eviction and homelessness. However, if they are paid off, this will enable Melissa to have stability by staying in her accommodation.