Complaint: Harrow Council Housing Benefit

I was not amused during my recent spell of unemployment, to be awarded just £87.40 a week in housing benefit.  My rent is £600.00 a month – not exactly an overwhelmingly expensive amount in London.

But apparently the government decrees that I should be able to find a room in a house for £378.73 a month.  In London.  Yep.  I haven’t paid that kind of rental amount since 2003.

However, as I am over 35, if I were living in a one-bedroom flat, then I would get up to £800.00 a month.  Logical, isn’t it?

So because I am doing the cost-saving procedure of renting a room in a shared house (albeit with nobody else living here), I get penalised.

I got my strop on and wrote a complaint.


Dear Sir/Madam

I would like to raise a complaint about the exceptionally low level of housing benefit support provided for unemployed persons such as myself.

I am a 37-year old male, living in a shared house with rent at £600pm.

I have been advised that I will receive just £87.40 per week.  This comes to £378.73 per month – leaving me with a shortfall of £221.27 each month.

This I can cover with my jobseeker’s allowance which comes to £316.77 per month.

My total income per month is therefore £695.50.  My rent is £600.00 and my mobile phone bill is £12.00 a month.

This leaves me with a grand total of £83.50 per month for food and toiletries, etc.

Previously when I was unemployed for 6 months in 2011/2012, I received £600.00 per month for a flat that I was living in.  I am advised that because I have taken the cost-saving option of house-sharing, that I am now penalised.  I was advised that if I had my own more-expensive flat, then my rent would have been covered.

This makes no sense.  Why would you fund a higher one-bedroom flat rental cost, but not the lower cost of renting a room in a shared house?

It does seem that I am being unfairly penalised – I doubt that any other groups of benefit claimants receive such small amounts as £83.50 per month to live on.

Now, I will survive until I get a job – and I will get a job.  I am no layabout – I spend 8-10 hours almost every single day looking for work and upskilling myself.

There is also an upside to my current relative destitution, and that is that I have lost 5kg in weight in the last two months due to my budgetary situation and having to restrict my food intake at times.

There are constantly stories of the huge benefits that some get, from large councils houses (remember Bob Crowe getting a council house despite earning £100k a year?), to above-inflation increases in pensions, vast arrays of people receiving benefits that they don’t need such as middle-income people receiving child tax credits and rich pensioners with their free TV licenses, winter fuel allowances, etc.

It seems the whole system is against someone like myself; no children, middle-aged, stable, balanced, male, temporarily out of work.  I have worked for all but 9 months of the last 17 years since university, contributing large volumes of tax towards the aforementioned unfair benefits, yet I cannot receive enough to cover my rent.

I will be working easily for the next 30 years, and as I am changing career into development/programming, I expect that as my earning potential hopefully increases significantly, I will be paying ever-larger sums of tax.

I know that I won’t get anything in return to this letter other than platitudes and your blaming of “government austerity”.  It does seem immaterially unfair that I am having to suffer due to the reckless overspending of the Labour government and the horrendous deficit that they left.

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I received a letter back, advising that the wrong calculation had been made, and that I was due the full sum for the first 13 weeks of unemployment as long as I could prove that I could afford the rent when I moved into the property.
I wasn’t going to bother writing this complaint as I thought it utterly pointless complaining to the local council, yet it turned out to be my most profitable complaint so far at something like £612.00 into my bank account.
Sadly I couldn’t go out and splash the cash willy-nilly, it had to be used for food, rent, etc – and if I don’t pass my one month trial in my new job, then I will be relying upon it once more.  Although it will probably disappear on rent/travel costs before I get paid – yikes.
Moral of the story?  Local councils are useless.  Always, always complain.
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