Melissa built up rent arrears when switching to Universal Credit. She was at the brink of becoming evicted and ending up homeless.
Thanks to your donations, Melissa was able to keep her home. Being able to pay off her rent arrears, improved her mental health significantly. Melissa is continuously working on further improving her mental health. Therefore, she hopes that her son can move in with her again soon.
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.