independent

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Mother faces losing her home due to rent allowance revision

Published 18/03/2014 | 05:32

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Sonia Blackman says she cannot find a suitable rental property near where her daughter goes to school but faces losing her rent allowance entirely if she doesn’t.

A MOTHER and her 11-year-old daughter face being made homeless at the end of April after the Department of Social Protection informed her that they were no longer willing to provide rent allowance for the two-bedroom apartment in Portmarnock the pair call home.

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Some six years ago, Sonia Blakeman who was born and bred in Portmarnock, split from her husband and moved back home from Mullingar with her daughter, Holly.

They secured an apartment in the town and Sonia was granted rent allowance from the Department of some €750 a month on an apartment that was then costing €1,200 a month.

Sonia struggled to make up the difference from her only source of income, which is lone parent's allowance, but she was prepared to make the sacrifice to raise her child in her home town, close to her extended family.

The rent on the apartment has fallen somewhat in the recession years to just under €1,000 but the rent allowance has also been cut back to just €600 – as a result, half of Sonia's income now goes on rent alone.

'There are days I go without but I do what I can to keep this roof over my daughter's head,' she told the Fingal Independent.

The stress of the last few years has led to a litany of health issues for Sonia which prevents her from working. She has type two diabetes and that condition is getting worse, with the Portmarnock woman starting insulin injections in the last few months.

She has a catalogue of allergies and chronic asthma and is forced to take 19 tablets a day, but a letter from the Department of Social Protection she received two weeks ago has piled on even greater pressure onto this struggling family.

The letter, seen by the Fingal Independent states that the Department of Social Protection is willing to continue to provide rent allowance to the family but only on a property where the total rent is no more than €850.

Sonia told the Fingal Independent: 'I've looked in Portmarnock and Malahide and Swords and can't find a place at that rent, the nearest I would be able to find a place is Balbriggan.

'I'm prepared to move out of Portmarnock but I want to be close enough so my daughter can stay in school here. She has moved schools twice already and she has found it hard to make friends and I don't want her to have to up sticks again.'

If she fails to find a home at the appropriate rent, the Department have said her rent allowance will be stopped completely, leaving the cost of her current rent higher than her total income.

Sonia's plight was raised in the council chamber recently by Cllr. Eugene Coppinger (SP) who said that the story of the Portmarnock family is being repeated across the county where rent allowance is falling and rules for its distribution are tightening while rents begin to climb again.

Cllr Coppinger said he fears the situation will only get worse as the Government fail to fund a serious attempt to tackle our growing housing waiting lists with new public housing.

Cllr Coppinger told the Fingal Independents that Sonia had been on Fingal's waiting list for six years already and could expect to wait a further two years for a local authority home.

Fingal Independent

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