Michaela's Story

Despite working six days a week, Michaela was struggling to pay her bills and especially her rent. We supported her to claim Universal Credit (UC), but the DWP decided that she does not qualify for the housing element and she should apply for housing benefit, instead. However, when she did so, she was told that she does not qualify for housing benefit and should claim the housing element of UC. Our Welfare Benefits Caseworker, Susan, helped her ask the DWP to reconsider their decision and award her the housing element of Universal Credit.

“I work very hard every day to pay for my bills – working six days a week just to cover them. Work, work, work, that’s all I could do. The rest of the time I was just stuck at home. All my money went on bills and I was left with nothing. I had no money. I was living hand-to-mouth, every day. I knew I needed some help.

“I phoned Citizens Advice Barnet and got an appointment with Liliana. She told me I qualify for UC and helped me apply. But when I heard back, they said I qualified for UC but not the housing element, so I should apply for housing benefit. When I applied for housing benefit they said I don’t qualify and I should apply for UC. I was just moving round in circles!

“I remembered that Liliana had said if I need any more help I can come back to Citizens Advice Barnet, so I called them again and got an appointment with Susan.

“Susan was really, really helpful. She helped me write an entry on my UC journal, asking them to reconsider their decision not to award me the housing element and explaining why I qualified for it.

“I just got the reply that they’d underpaid me and are going to send the housing element straight to my landlord from now on, and pay me the underpayment.

“If I hadn’t come back to Citizens Advice Barnet, everything I’m entitled to would have been trashed under the carpet.

“If you don’t know your rights, you’re stuck. A lot of people are lost, like me, and I just want to say to them to go for it – to get help from Citizens Advice Barnet. They’ve been very, very, very, very helpful.”