Peterborough tenant left thousands of pounds in rent arrears after wrongly being sanctioned by DWP
Forty-two-year-old Chris Bloy found himself thousands of pounds in rent arrears after having his benefits unfairly cut back.
But instead of evicting him, his landlord helped him fight back.
Chris, from Peterborough, had moved into a home owned by homelessness charity Hope into Action after splitting with the mother of his children.
This proved particularly fortunate when Chris was told he was being sanctioned.
His Universal Credit payment was cut, he says, by about £250 a month for six months, later extended to eight.
The offence? Missing appointments he says he was never told about.
Chris was suddenly faced with the reality that he would not be able to pay his rent.
But instead of chasing him for payments, Hope into Action helped him fight his corner as he prepared for a tribunal against the DWP.
“Hope into Action have been amazing - without them I would have been stuck,” he said.
“Any other landlord would have just said ‘get out’.”
But Chris said the “horrible” experience took its toll on his health and he lost lots of weight.
“I couldn’t even afford new shoes. Everything was hard,” he said.
Paddy Ryan, of the charity, said: “As Chris’s empowerment worker for almost all of the time he was with Hope into Action, I could see the lengths he had to go to just to make sure he was receiving his monthly payment before he was sanctioned.
“Chris would regularly contact Universal Credit by phone and it was a complete surprise to him and me when they authorised the initial sanction of six months for non-attendance.
“I distinctly remember Chris being in our office on the phone to one department of the DWP while another one was calling to talk to him.
“It was farcical. The whole system is disjointed and very punitive, leaving those that are trying to get themselves back on a level footing no real assistance. “It’s just black and white; no humanity or compassion.“Luckily, Chris had myself and his MP willing to further his case, but for the thousands upon thousands of people who don’t have this support it must be a nightmare.”
In the end, phone records proved Chris had regularly been in contact with the DWP, meaning the case was awarded in his favour.
He received the money he had missed out on which paid off his arrears, and now has a job cleaning car parks, meaning he has left Universal Credit behind him.
“When I came off Universal Credit they still sent me letters saying I’m not fulfilling my commitments and they will sanction me again.
“They just did not have a clue. The system does not work,” Chris said.
A DWP spokesman said: “Mr Bloy was sanctioned because he failed to attend scheduled appointments or make contact with his local job centre for a period of six months. However, as Mr Bloy’s appeal has found in his favour we have now paid all benefits due to him.”