‘I was living with my four-year old daughter in a one-bedroom council flat. I’d applied for permanent residency in 2018 but it had been refused. I’d also applied for the EU Settlement Scheme in 2019 but that was refused in 2020. My visa had expired and I didn’t know if I was allowed to work – different solicitors told me different things – and I was really scared we were going to lose our home.
‘The Home Office granted my daughter indefinite leave to remain in October 2020 so in December 2020 I applied for indefinite leave to remain too. I had no recourse to public funds so I was just at home, waiting. It felt there was no way out. I was so scared I would be referred to social services.
‘It was lockdown so there were no evictions, but in March 2021 I received a letter from the council telling me I had rent arrears and they were seeking possession. I knew we could lose our home so I decided I needed to try to do something. I got in touch with Citizens Advice who referred me to South West London Law Centres.
‘It was like a really beautiful day when I filled in the application form online. I was phoned back straight away and everything was put in place for me – it’s something I will never forget. They gave me food vouchers and help with my energy bills in the cold winter and explained everything I was entitled to. Maha worked so hard for me and never tired. Hajra helped me with my housing and Eunice gave me advice about money. It was a big relief for me.
‘In June I was granted indefinite leave to remain so Maha helped me apply for universal credit. We also applied for a Discretionary Housing Benefit which was refused but she helped me apply for a National Zakat Foundation Grant which has given me £2,000 for my rent arrears. I’ve started working which is a really big thing. I was always scared we were going to lose our home but it means I don’t have to worry about that any more.
‘I’m so thankful for the Law Centre’s help – it’s made a big big difference to me.‘
Aisha* had rent arrears of £4,500.00 and had been contacted by the council, threatening her with possession. At the time she had no recourse to public funds. When her immigration status went through, our crisis navigator applied for a discretionary housing payment on her behalf. This was initially refused so we applied again and Aisha is now receiving a small amount each week. Our crisis navigator also helped her apply for a National Zakat Foundation Grant which was successful. They have agreed to pay £2,000.00 towards her rent arrears.
*not her real name
You can find out more about our crisis navigation service here.