Grandmother 62 & Granddaughter 4, Face Homelessness due to Universal Credit

A grandmother and her 4 year old granddaughter who she cares for have been threatened with homelessness after she was denied Universal Credit for being born in America, despite having been in the UK since she was 5.
Banks has lived in England since she was five

A grandmother and her four-year-old granddaughter could end up on the streets after the government stopped her benefits because she was born overseas. Gwendolyn Banks, 62, said that she is terrified she will end up homeless if her benefit payments are not restarted soon.

The row with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) began when she was told she needed to apply for Universal Credit. She was previously receiving Employment Support Allowance (ESA) but contacted the DWP because she required more financial help to support her four-year-old granddaughter, Sienna, the Birmingham Mail reported.

Banks’ granddaughter Sienna [right], who could also be made homeless

Gwendolyn cannot work because of ill health and is also a full-time carer for her ex-husband. She became her granddaughers legal guardian after her daughter Sinead died suddenly at the start of 2018.

But the DWP concluded that she was not entitled to benefits because she failed the Habitual Residency Test, despite moving to Britain when she was just five years old and having lived in Birmingham since she was at school. Banks in now struggling to survive on just £80 per week, compared to the £200 per week she was previously getting.

She is also no longer receiving Housing Benefit (around £80 per week towards her £90 rent bill) or help towards her council tax and still has to pay £13 Bedroom Tax. “I could not believe what they were telling me,” Banks said.

Not British Enough

“I was told I needed to change from ESA to Universal Credit and then they closed my claim because they cannot class me as a British Citizen. “While I appeal this, I have limited money coming in and I can’t afford to live. “I was born in America but England is my home. I have no family I know in America and i don’t even have an American accent, it’s ridiculous.”

Banks’ 24-year-old daughter, Sinead, died suddenly in January this year after suffering a cardiac arrest. “I am still trying to come to terms with the sudden loss of my daughter. “And when I enquire for extra financial help to look after my granddaughter, they drop this bombshell on me.

Mrs Banks hasn’t received her full benefits entitlement since the beginning of this April and is now in rent arrears, as a result. A growing trend in new Universal Credit claimants as I know all too well.

She has been summoned to court and told she is at risk of losing her home. “As soon as my claim was closed, my benefits stopped,” Gwendolyn adds.

Rent arrears growing weekly

“So my arrears have built up and gone over the £1,000 limit, which means I could lose my home in a matter of weeks. “I have lived here most of my life and I do not want to give up my home. Where will we live? I can’t even afford to feed my granddaughter.”

Gwendolyn’s parents met in Ireland and moved to America for a very brief period before bringing their young family to Britain. Banks has however had only ever applied for an American passport.

A DWP spokesperson said: “Ms Banks’ case is currently being reviewed by a specialist decision maker. People who have moved to the UK may be asked to provide certain documents when they make a new claim to benefits and this has not changed under Universal Credit.”

If they can, they will

To me that statement just highlighted that Universal Credit is the problem. By stating that nothing has changed in the process compared to old benefits, they’re either saying; we were wrong when she applied for ESA or, we’re wrong now. I know which I’d hedge my bets on.

Since the introduction of Universal Credit, the scheme’s policies have created a Hostile Environment for as many people the government can.

Sick, disabled, not born here, victim of domestic abuse. That’s just a few groups of of people that have become blatantly disadvantaged since Universal Credit has been rolled out. If they can exclude you, they will.

I only hope that the DWP see sense before Gwendolyn and her granddaughter end up on the street with nothing.

Alex @RespectIsVital

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