Things started to go wrong for Caroline after she was diagnosed with MS. A single mother with two children, she worked as a carer until she was forced to give up due to ill health. Despite the recommendations from her GP and hospital specialists, Caroline was found fit to work by the DWP medical assessment. As a result, her sickness benefit stopped and she fell into debt.
“Physically I lost weight as I couldn’t afford to eat. On several occasions I went several days without food. I had some help from food banks but you can’t have more than three vouchers. On one occasion I went four days without hot water as I had no money for gas. I had to sacrifice my car – I couldn’t afford to run it. This meant it was difficult to get out of the house, especially on the days when my legs were bad. I was just stuck in the house constantly. I think it would have helped me to cope with my health problems better if I had been able to see friends socially but there was no way I could go out with no money. My rent arrears continually went up … I couldn’t afford to pay the shortfall – I ended up in court where I was afraid of being evicted. It was very stressful and the stress of it made me even more ill.”
Caroline contacted Shelter Cymru for support and was put in touch with Suzanne, her local adviser. Suzanne has worked for Shelter Cymru for nine years.
Suzanne is our Housing Support Worker in Flintshire and has worked for Shelter Cymru for nine years.
“With Caroline, her illness made her extremely vulnerable, having to give up work not only increased the financial pressure on her and her family but also had an impact on her mental wellbeing. She simply couldn’t make ends meet. Facing potential homelessness at this point was the final straw and she felt so low that at times she felt that she couldn’t face the future.”
Suzanne has been working with Caroline and her family for two years, helping Caroline deal with her welfare benefit issues, her rent arrears and financial management, getting her back to work and supporting her with her health problems and mental wellbeing.
“I am so pleased Caroline is now feeling well enough to be doing permitted work (which is designed to support people to get off benefits and back into employment). Caroline was embarrassed to be on benefits but she like many others had no choice. Being back in work has made a huge difference both financially and mentally to Caroline. Although she is still suffering from MS, she can now look after her family again, something every mum wants to be able to do.”
“I don’t know how I would have coped on my own. The way the support has been delivered has been great – home visits were perfect for me as I know I wouldn’t have been able to get to appointments when I was feeling so low. I really don’t know what I would have done without Shelter Cymru’s support.”
Caroline and her family are unfortunately not alone. Family break ups, job loss, sudden illness, debt, the list of reasons why a family falls into rent or mortgage arrears is endless but the result is often the same, that their home is put at risk.
That’s where we come in. Every day, we work with families at risk of losing their homes.
Please help us this Christmas to support more families across Wales at risk of losing their homes by donating to us today.