Paying rent without work 'a very scary place to be'

By Stephen Fottrell
BBC News

  • Published
Karen LucasImage source, Karen Lucas

What is it like to lose your job and not have enough money to cover your rent and childcare?

Single mother-of-two Karen Lucas was made redundant from her job as a financial analyst and was out of work for almost two months.

She says it will affect her for "a good number of years to come".

And she is not alone.

One in three families in England is unable to afford their rent or mortgage payments for more than a month after losing their job, according to a study for the charity Shelter.

Image source, Alamy

High costs for housing and a lack of personal savings are cited as the main reasons. The government says "strong protections" are in place for "those who fall on difficult times".

Karen, from Basingstoke, said: "I lost my job in May, having been headhunted into the role and then told I wasn't needed after three months' probation.

"I had relocated and changed my plans to take up the role and was then left with £1,200 monthly rent to pay on just £73 per week jobseeker's allowance.

"I was able to cover one month's rent from money I had in the bank - but even that was a struggle.

"I had to apply for discretionary housing benefit and move my debts on to a payment plan, which will now affect all my future credit rating.

"Although I found a new job last month, I'm now on significantly less money than I was.

"I'm now taking home £2,000 a month, with £1,300 childcare and £1,200 rent. My tax credits and housing benefits amount to £900. So it doesn't leave me much and I'm on a payment plan for my credit cards.

Image source, Karen Lucas

"The effects of losing my job and being out of work for seven weeks will give me a headache in dealing with it for a good number of years to come.

"This has never happened to me before, having worked constantly for 20 years. It has totally knocked my confidence and my concern now is how do I move forward?

"I have to pay for full-time nursery, holiday clubs and before and after-school clubs to enable me to work.

"I'd be in serious trouble if it happened again. I already feel like I'm in this horrible loop and I can't see where I'll get out. It was even worse when I was out of work.

"It's a very scary place to be.

"There's help out there but it's not easy to find.

"Rents need to be reviewed by the government and as my credit rating is now affected I doubt I would be able to rent another house, even if it's cheaper, as I wouldn't pass the credit checks.

"So I have no idea what we are meant to do when we fall on hard times again. It isn't a short-term issue. It all has lasting effects."