Losing his dad then losing his home
Kai was 17 years old when his dad passed away. He had suffered with a lung disease called COPD and Kai had been his carer. Kai stayed on his own in the temporary accommodation he and his father has been living in for a year after his death, but then was asked to leave.
“There’s not really a way to describe how that felt. You can’t understand it unless you’ve lived it," Kai says. "It’s indescribable, the grief. Everything I ever knew was taken away from me. I had to take on all the bills. I didn’t know what to do. I was very close to my dad – there’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think about him.”
Dropping out of college
At the time, Kai had been at college and had to drop out due to the stress: “It was just too much, physically and emotionally. I should have had more support in place, but there just wasn’t.”
Kai and his dad had been living in temporary accommodation for about four years. His dad had been on the council waiting list when Kai moved in, but then they had to start the whole process again because they needed a two-bed place. So they went back down to the bottom of the list.
Moving to Centrepoint
After the death of his father, the council wanted to move Kai into a YMCA. It was heavily contested – Kai argued he wasn’t suited to a YMCA due to his needs. He needed to be somewhere self-contained. In the end, Kai was given housing through Centrepoint, and he’s been living in a flat with floating support for three years.
Kai has been having serious financial difficulties due to an over payment of his benefits.
“I was moved off income support and onto Universal Credit. I didn’t know that I had to declare my work – I assumed that paying tax was declaring it. I hadn’t really worked before so I didn’t really know,” he explains. “I was overpaid on several occasions which I didn’t realise and that racked up to nearly a grand, which I now I have to pay back. Then I’ve got to pay back the advance payments from the ridiculous five-week assessment period. I’m paying £66 per month for over payments. I haven’t got enough money to live on.
“Now I’m getting DLA [Disability Living Allowance], but if I wasn’t getting it, I honestly don’t know where I’d be. I probably would have killed myself. I just don’t have enough to live. People shouldn’t have to live like this, but this is what happens. The benefit system is against the people that are on benefits.
“I am trying my best to find work. I am praying that I get this job that I’ve applied for – a security job for a supermarket. If I get it, I might get a staff discount too, which would be amazing because it would help me with the cost of food.”
During this difficult period, Kai applied for the hardship bursary so that he could buy food.
“I got £25 which kept me going for a short time. I am proof that Universal Credit doesn’t work. I am trying to find work and I’m being punished for it. I can’t fall back on my parents – it’s just me, and there’s no buffer between me and poverty.
“I didn’t realise that I had become ineligible for income support. They told me I might have to pay all of it back. I didn’t know what I would do if that had happened. It would have been £10k. To be 21 and have to pay back that amount of money that you honestly had no idea about. I’m teetering pretty close the edge with life as it is at the moment, but if that had happened I think I would have gone over.
“I’m lucky that I haven’t had to change from DLA to PIP [Personal Independence Payment]. I’ve got £3 in my bank account to last five days. I’m lucky that I’ve been able to borrow £20 from my mum’s boyfriend. If he hadn’t helped me out, I’d have no food. I had to pay for my cat’s treatment the other day at the vet’s. Luckily with the PDSA [People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals] it was only a fiver, but that £5 meant that we both couldn’t eat.
“I’ve got £470 per month to live on after the over payments and my rent has come out. £100 of that is my electric. £45 is for my phone bill with insurance (I can’t take the risk that I lose or break my phone because I wouldn’t be able to replace it). So basically, I’ve got just over £300 for food, internet and travel per month. I don’t buy clothes – I can’t afford it.”