How ‘pay to stay’ housing will penalise disabled people like my daughter

Added Date: 2nd January 2016
How ‘pay to stay’ housing will penalise disabled people like my daughter

Guardian article

I had been on the housing register for a year when a doctor sat me down to tell me I had cancer. My daughter May is severely disabled, which is why we were on the housing register.

Money worries have been central to living with disability and illness for my family. When my doctor told me I had cancer, the first thought I had shouldn’t have been that I would lose my home. But I knew that this kind of illness could be more than just physically devastating; it can be expensive.

I knew how costly petrol and parking at hospitals were when you had to do it every day for medical reasons (not to mention a life eating out of coffee shops). These extravagances were especially hard when I had to take a major pay cut to care for my daughter. As if this wasn’t bad enough, two years earlier, we’d moved into a more expensive flat so that we wouldn’t have to carry May up four storeys to get into our home. Even that was a first-floor flat with several sets of stairs to negotiate – not a great long-term solution. With reluctance, I had put our names down on the housing register; the only way, we were told by May’s social worker, to find accessible housing.

There has been much criticism of the housing bill, especially the extension of right to buy and the forced sell-off of social housing stock. But very little vitriol has been directed at the “pay to stay” scheme.

My husband is a teacher and earns just over the £40,000 higher-earner threshold for London. From 2017, George Osborne wants us to pay market rate for our home. While I’ve been on my three-year cancer holiday, I’ve been unable to return to work as a teacher and so I collected employment and support allowance (which, incidentally, Osborne is cutting by nearly 30%). My daughter is so cognitively and physically impaired she will never work or pay taxes. She can’t even sit, or throw an arm around our necks when we carry her up the stairs.

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