28 October 2019

Armando, 52, met senior caseworker Boguslaw at the Ace of Clubs in March 2019 when he was in danger of losing his flat after his father, the tenancy holder, passed away. Boguslaw's intervention kept him from becoming homeless. We continue to work with him to reduce his rent arrears.


Armando enters Boguslaw’s office holding a small stack of paperwork. There’s been another complication with his universal credit. 

Boguslaw reads through the letters. After a moment, he says: “It’s alright, don’t worry about it.” Boguslaw wants to reassure Armando that they can go through the paperwork together.   

Armando has been seeing Boguslaw since March this year, after he was threatened with eviction. Today he wears a thick jacket and a baseball cap. He's happy to share his story because he knows others are going through similar struggles, but Armando prefers not to be photographed. 

Originally from Portugal, Armando arrived in the UK in 1991 in order to be closer to his father. When his father became seriously ill with cancer in 2004, Armando moved in and became a full-time carer.

In February of this year, Armando’s father died. That’s when the complications started.

"I was living with my dad, and it was his place. When he died, he passed me the tenancy," Armando recalls. 

Armando had been receiving Employability Support Allowance (ESA), which is a benefit for people who are unable to work. In addition, he received a carer’s allowance.

When his father (the tenancy holder) died, the council reviewed Armando’s benefits. His flat is in the borough of Lambeth, a council which had recently made the switch to Universal Credit.

I had to change all my benefits, that’s when the payments stopped.

"I applied for the transfer to universal credit. They decided I didn’t fit the criteria and they stopped the payments. The rent was going up and I had no income," Armando says.

With no money and no support, Armando was in danger of becoming homeless. His neighbour suggested he go to the Ace of Clubs for support, where he met Boguslaw.

Finding other pathways

Photo: Senior caseworker Boguslaw

“Under the new rules, you cannot claim ESA and Universal Credit at the same time,” Boguslaw explains. “In order to claim the rent money, you have to stop your benefits and apply for Universal Credit.”

Armando’s application for Universal Credit was rejected. Despite living in the UK for more than 27 years, Armando was told he failed the "Habitual Residency Test", which all claimants have to pass or be exempt from in order to claim Universal Credit.

Now Armando had no income at all. He wasn’t able to pay for daily necessities like food and electricity, let alone rent.

Boguslaw decided to take a different route. They applied for Amando to receive “settled status” through the EU settlement scheme. Following Britain leaving the European Union, the EU Settlement Scheme is a process where EU citizens apply to continue living in the UK after June 2021. A successful application would mean that Armando could stay in the UK indefinitely and be eligible for certain benefits.

The application was successful and Armando was able to start receiving universal credit. This meant he could keep up the payments for his flat.

Said Armando:

Glass Door has impacted my life massively. Without Boguslaw I would be lost. I’d probably be on the street by now.

Complications continue

However, this wasn’t the end of Armando’s journey. Because of the gap in payments, he now owed Lambeth council £3,000 in rent arrears.

As a part of Universal Credit, Armando is awarded a basic living allowance of £317 a month. But the council have been taking back the rent arrears, leaving him with less to live on.

Breakdown of Armando’s monthly living allowance:

Living Allowance awarded

£317.82

Deducted for upfront payment of Universal Credit

-£25.00

Rent arrears

-£63.56

Total Armando receives

£229.26

 

“We understand the rent wasn’t paid, but this wasn’t his fault, and we are working to resolve the situation,” Boguslaw says.

The next steps

Armando worked with Boguslaw to see if they can reduce his monthly repayments.

Unfortunately, their original appeal to the council was unsuccessful. It didn’t help that the council mistakenly reviewed the case under Armando’s father’s name as the account holder (also Armando). The delays continue.

However, Boguslaw remains optimistic:

We have a compelling case. It wasn’t his fault that there was a bereavement. We’ll pursue it. We will reapply.

Said Armando:

"I just wish they could realise this is not the way forward or the way to help people. I know many in the same situation or even worse. I was passing through all those months, and nobody checked if I was OK or if I needed anything. Not even when my father passed away. I’d just been left alone – which is sad,” he added.

I had to get some help from someone. I’m glad I came here.

Photo: The Ace of Clubs Drop-In where Senior caseworker Boguslaw worked with Armando

Armando’s story is no isolated incident. Earlier this year we reported many gaps in payments from the new roll-out of Universal Credit.

To give support to someone like Armando and make a long-term difference in the life of someone affected by homelessness, consider making a donation