FIFTEEN families in north Edinburgh, including up to 40 children, are at risk of imminent eviction as a result of changes in benefit rules, community campaigners have warned.
The benefit cap, which limits families to a maximum of £384 a week, and the new two-child limit on child tax credits, are saddling struggling parents with mounting rent arrears which lead to them losing their homes.
Single mother Melissa Gaynor, 26, and her three children have already been evicted from the private rented flat where they were living in Wardieburn.
Ms Gaynor had been getting housing benefit of £785 per month to cover the rent, but when the benefit cap took effect in January she was expected to pay £372 a month herself despite having no other income.
Hundreds of pounds in rent arrears, she received notice to quit and had to leave the flat.
The council offered her and the children - Ronald, eight, Tyler, six, and Riley, four - temporary bed and breakfast accommodation at a hostel, but she refused it after learning the residents included people with addiction and mental health problems.
She said: “I’m so stressed. I’ve nowhere to go. They offered me this hostel which is not suitable for children, so I refused that.
“They said I’d have to find somewhere to stay or sleep in the street and come back in the morning.”
Ms Gaynor has been attending a 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.
Anti poverty campaigner Willie Black led a protest at the housing office in West Pilton yesterday.
He said: “We have identified 15 young women and 40 children who will potentially be evicted in the coming weeks.
“These are women who have stepped forward, trying to better themselves, to get into work and they are being battered by this legislation.”
Edinburgh Northern & Leith SNP MSP Ben Macpherson said benefit changes introduced by the Conservative UK Government were hitting vulnerable groups across the country, causing hardship and poverty.
“These cuts the Tories have pushed through are putting more and more pressure on local services and support systems, as well as senselessly harming those affected.”
A council spokeswoman said: “The council’s temporary accommodation services are under increasing pressure due to a shortage of affordable housing in Edinburgh. As a result, families are sometimes placed temporarily in B&B accommodation until more appropriate accommodation is available. The council is committed to ensuring that families with children spend as short a time as possible in this form of accommodation.”
A DWP spokeswoman said: “Since the benefit cap was introduced, around 29,000 households across the UK who previously had their benefits capped have moved into work.”