Sharelle explains how the cost of living crisis is affecting her and her family.
"My name is Sharelle, I’m 39 years old and a single parent with a family of 4 children living in a 3 bedroomed property in Leeds. I’m finding it difficult to live on Income Support, Child Benefit and Tax Credits with 4 kids because everything has risen in price.
"When my energy company increased my direct debit from £67 per month to £280 due to the energy cap increase, I couldn’t afford to stay on monthly billing as the direct debit was more than my income, so I arranged for pre-payment meters to be installed. I top-up £10 per week on gas as its still summertime and £30 per week on electricity. Each time I top-up, £6 is taken towards debt I have due to the price increase. I don’t know what we will do come the winter months.
"I was already feeling pressured, wondering how I was going to heat the house or feed the kids, then Hannah, who manages my rent account at Leeds Federated Housing contacted me to advise my Housing Benefit had reduced to £0.50 pence per week, I hit rock bottom!
"I had no correspondence from Housing Benefit, so I was shocked and upset as I didn’t know why this had happened and I didn’t know where to turn for help. I couldn’t afford to pay my rent and had built-up rent arrears. Hannah picked up that there was a problem and referred me to Sharon from the Money Matters Team at Leeds Federated Housing, for support. When I spoke to Sharon, I felt relieved that help was at hand.
"Sharon did a Welfare Benefit check which revealed, firstly, that the Benefit Cap was being wrongly applied as I was being treated as a single person instead of a single parent family with responsibility for 4 children. Secondly, a non-dependent deduction for my son aged 19 was being wrongly applied as he was in full time education.
"Sharon confirmed with my son’s college that the course he was on, was classed as fulltime and she wrote to Housing Benefit requesting that the 2 errors be corrected and backdated urgently due to financial hardship. During this time, I had to prioritise food for my kids above everything else and we kept heating and lighting costs down due to it being summertime, whilst having no control over the standard charges.
"Due to Sharon’s help and support, my Housing Benefit claim was corrected and a total of £1,696.48 was credited to my rent account which cleared all the rent arrears, and I am now in receipt of full Housing Benefit.
"Talk about going the extra mile, I mentioned to Sharon that my son had recently finished full time education and she was quick to help him claim Universal Credit whilst he is looking for work, which is additional income into the family home."