Get involved! Send photos, video, news & views. Text SWINDON NEWS to 80360 or email us
Camping protest got me a new flat
5:46pm Tuesday 7th August 2012 in News
A HOMELESS man who was offered a flat after setting up camp outside Swindon Council’s offices says people should not have to take such extreme action to get off the streets.
Danny Lake, 27, started living in a tent in the garden of the Civic Offices, in Euclid Street, to highlight the effects of Government changes to housing benefit for single people aged 25 to 34 in private rented accommodation.
The seasoned campaigner, who was involved in the recent Occupy London protest against corporate greed, said he had to leave his one-bedroom Purton flat after his housing benefit was halved.
But he said Swindon Council was willing to spend twice as much as he was originally getting to pay for hostel accommodation.
Danny, a former Headlands and Churchfields School pupil, set up camp at 9pm on Monday and after discussions with officers, he says they offered to provide 100 per cent housing benefit to cover the £170 weekly rent on a private one-bedroom studio flat in Grange Park under a scheme, which he says was not mentioned to him previously.
Danny said: “It’s only because I got off my backside and pitched my tent on their lawn I’ve got what I wanted. Otherwise I would have been in exactly the same position as everyone else.
“In a way it sort of makes a mockery of their whole system. People go in there, they get their ticket, they queue up, they get told these’s nothing we can do, the law is in place and we cannot change the law. And then this goes and happens and it makes a mockery. You’ve got people on the waiting list and it’s ridiculous.”
From January 1, the Government made changes to housing benefit, which is administered by local authorities, meaning single people aged 25 to 34 living in private rented homes are only entitled to the shared accommodation rate.
Danny, who used to work in construction, said he was originally paid about £450 a month by Wiltshire Council for his flat in Purton but this was cut to about £280.
He said he was made homeless because he could not cover the shortfall through his Jobseeker’s Allowance, but he was disgusted after moving back over the Swindon-Wiltshire border to find Swindon Council was willing to pay between £170 and £230 a week to cover his rent at a homeless hostel.
A Wiltshire Council spokeswoman said: “The housing benefit changes were made by Government and affected all local authorities from January 2012 but there was also a 12-month protection package in place which meant those affected by the changes would still have the same level of benefit as before until the first anniversary of when they first claimed.
“In this particular case the benefit would have stayed the same until May 2012 but the tenant opted to move out in January. ”
Swindon North MP Justin Tomlinson recommended that Danny use the housing benefit money he had been offered to rent a room in a shared house, like many younger people do. He said the changes aimed to help those who play by the rules and in no way aimed to make people homeless.
A Swindon Council spokesman said: “Mr Lake has been treated in exactly the same way as anyone who reports to us as being homeless. He last came to see us in June.
“The type of property we have found for him does not come up regularly, but fortunately we were in a position to offer him something suitable today. The changes to the benefit system were introduced by the government and we are simply implementing those changes, as we are required to do.”