I want to tell you a little bit about someone who really needs your help at the moment. Firstly, Paula isn't her real name, she doesn't want to be identified as needing charity. She is a proud woman with a full time job, who has worked all her life. She never expected to find herself in her current position and it's unfortunately brought her to the very brink of despair.
Paula is registered disabled and at immediate risk of being evicted from her home. She is having to rely on food banks to feed herself and her son. The only way she is able to keep a roof over their heads is by paying all her income in rent, leaving nothing for food or other bills.
How did things get so bad for her? Unfortunately changes in the eligibility criteria for claiming housing benefit and incorrect advice from the housing association.
Paula is a single mother with Multiple Sclerosis. Following a divorce, she lived in rented accommodation and eventually was allocated a housing association flat. The flat was on the first floor with no access other than by 2 flights of stairs. As the disease progressed, she increasingly found herself a prisoner in her flat whenever she relapsed, as she couldn't manage the stairs. After two years of asking to be moved, she finally received the news that there was a more suitable home available to her. It was completely bare, without carpets even, but it was better than being trapped so she was keen to move in. She checked with the housing association to make sure her housing benefit would transfer with her when she moved, she was reassured that it would.
However, after two weeks of living in her new home, she received a surprising phone call, her weekly rent was in arrears. The advice she had been given was incorrect, she had to reapply for her housing benefit. She did so immediately, her circumstances hadn't changed so hopefully it could all be resolved quickly and the arrears would be paid.
The blow came when she heard she was no longer eligible. The criteria for claiming had changed and the only way she can resolve this is to stop working and claim benefits. Seriously this is the only option. She has been to Citizens Advice, the Local Authority where she lives, she has even asked her MP for advice. All with no other solution to help.
Faced with this horribly choice many people would have simply given up their jobs and accepted that claiming benefits was their only option. But Paula couldn't face giving up the job she loves, working in a school with special needs children. She doesn't want to stop working! Keeping active helps her own health considerably, but that isn't the only reason. She wants to work because it is the right thing to do. She knows the children need positive role models like her, seeing adults with disabilities in employment is vital for them to believe they can achieve employment one day too. She just couldn't face letting the children down.
But the worry of the mounting debt and the threat of eviction looming over her is taking quite a toll now on Paula's health. For the first time in her life she is facing dark thoughts and despair. Which is why I'm stepping in to let you know her story. Paula would never ask for your help, she didn't ask for mine. But when I found out about her plight I felt so strongly that this was wrong, I wanted to do something to help her.
I haven't got enough money to help her out of this debt and spiralling despair on my own, but I've got some and I'm am pitching in to help. So I ask will you pitch in too? Please if you can spare a little bit of money, please donate to help Paula keep a roof over her head and enable her to keep the job she loves.