Edinburgh’s homeless families demand action

At least 11 families and 42 children face eviction from their privately rented homes in North Edinburgh due to the Benefits Cap". Picture: TSPL
At least 11 families and 42 children face eviction from their privately rented homes in North Edinburgh due to the Benefits Cap". Picture: TSPL
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A MOTHER and her two children who lost their home when the benefit cap left them unable to pay the rent had to move to three different bed and breakfasts in six days as they waited for temporary accommodation.

Rachel Gardner, 24, said the disruption was particularly upsetting for her five-year-old son Andrew, who has autism. “He was crying all the time and begging me to take him home.”

She was one of a group of young mums battling the homelessness system who took their fight to a meeting of the city council. In a series of powerful and moving testimonies they spelled out the emotional distress and practical problems they faced.

Even if a family knows they are going to be evicted they cannot ask the council for accommodation until they have actually lost their home.

Ms Gardner said she, Andrew and daughter Lucy, six, had to leave their home in Pilton when her benefit no longer covered the rent. They then spent seven hours at the housing office, waiting in vain to see if a house could be found.

After the B&Bs they were eventually offered temporary accommodation in Muirhouse.

“When I got there I had nothing – just a carpet and a bed. I had to borrow plates and cutlery and a kettle from the community centre and bedding from the girls in my group because all my stuff was in storage.

“All our belongings were taken away in a van the day we left our house and I won’t see them again until I get offered a permanent council house – which could take 18 months.

“If I need to get any of my stuff out of storage I have to pay £60 per item.”

Another woman had had to spend 19 days in a B&B with her husband and two children before they were allocated a temporary flat on the 15th floor of a block in Moredun, miles away from the children’s school.

The mums, who belong to All About Me, a women-into-work group in North Edinburgh, say many other families across the city also face losing their homes thanks to the benefit cap.

And they presented councillors with a list of policy changes they said could help.

Joanne Collins said: “We are calling on the council to take immediate action to address this crisis in the city.”

Council leader Adam McVey promised to look at the issues raised by the women and said he hoped the charges involved in storage of property could be reviewed urgently.

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com