Benefit caps: Protests get evicted family a temporary home

Melissa Gaynor with son Tyler were evicted from their property at 14 Wardieburn Place East. Picture; Toby Williams
Melissa Gaynor with son Tyler were evicted from their property at 14 Wardieburn Place East. Picture; Toby Williams
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MOTHER-OF-THREE Melissa Gaynor, evicted from her home when benefit changes left her unable to pay the rent, has been given temporary accommodation after being left to fend for herself and her children for almost a week.

But campaigners warned many other people are set to be caught in the same trap thanks to the UK Government’s cap on benefit payments.

Ms Gaynor, 26, and sons Ronald, eight, Tyler, six, and Riley, four, were forced to leave their privately-rented flat in Wardieburn when the housing benefit which covered her £785 per month was slashed, leaving her to pay £372 a month herself despite having no other income.

All the council could offer her was a place in a hostel catering for people with mental health and addiction problems, which she refused.

Other mothers from north Edinburgh, several of whom are also at imminent risk of eviction, staged a protest at the West Pilton housing office and also lobbied a full council meeting at the City Chambers.

Now the family has moved into a sixth-floor flat in Muirhouse as temporary accommodation.

Pauline Nicol-Bowie, who helped organise the protests, said: “This has only come about because we put pressure on the councillors.

“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 benefit cap.”

Ms Gaynor said her sister had taken in the boys, but she had to “sofa surf” for nearly a week until the council found her temporary accommodation.

“They’ve said it might be up to 18 months,” she said. “I just need to keep bidding and hopefully get the offer of a flat.”

The temporary flat has electric storage heaters, which are not good for her middle son’s asthma. But she said: “At least it’s a roof over the kids’ heads.”

Ms Gaynor has been attending the Making It Work course at Royston/Wardieburn community centre which helps women get back into work – and many of the others on the course are in a similar situation. She said: “Two of my friends have been told they have to be out by June 19. They’ve got seven kids between them.

“They will need to find somewhere else before then or they will be in the same situation as me, being offered B&B.”

The council says its temporary accommodation services are under increasing pressure, but it tries to ensure families with children are in B&B’s for as short time as possible before more appropriate accommodation is found. At Holyrood last week, Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman said over 3600 households and 11,000 children in Scotland were affected by the new cap.

“Although the average weekly cut is £59, some households are having to cope with losing £200 each week. The fact that that is increasing hardship and difficulty for already vulnerable households and children is unacceptable, and the UK Government should reverse the policy.