Friday, 23 April 2010
White and British = no benefits and no council house
A BRITISH family who lost everything after living abroad and returned home for help have been told by Havering Council they are foreigners and entitled to nothing.
Desperate Lorraine Marsland, 52, begged to be put on the council's housing register after arriving empty-handed in the UK with grandson Dylan, 10.
The pair had just the clothes they stood up in when they landed in England in January after their home and belongings in Torrebieja, near Alicante in Spain, were repossessed by the Spanish authorities.
Since then Lorraine, a former croupier in Liverpool, and Dylan have been living in Abercrombie House hostel, in Bridgwater Road, Harold Hill, surviving on food parcels donated by the church and social services.
Both are British citizens but this week the council refused to help, apparently labelling the pair 'asylum seekers' in its rejection letter, because Lorraine - who lived in Spain for 23 years - did not meet habitual resident status.
"It makes me feel really awful; I feel like a foreigner in my own country," she said. "I never thought this would happen - I honestly thought if I came back here everything would be ok.
"But I'm being told I'm entitled to nothing even though I paid my taxes for years before I moved to Spain."
Havering Council insisted it had "at no time" classed the pair as asylum seekers but was simply quoting the relevant sections of the Housing Act.
However, it did brand them "persons from abroad", rejecting Lorraine's bid for housing, and now the frantic grandmother has been given one week to move out of the hostel.
"Dylan will be taken into care and I will be on-the-street homeless," she said. "I literally have nowhere to turn. I have no immediate family.
"I am the only relative Dylan's got here - surely social services shouldn't separate us?"
Lorraine who has been searching for work since arriving in the UK, has also been turned down for child benefits as well as Job Seekers' Allowance by the Department for Work and Pensions.
Dylan's single mum Lisa, 30, remains homeless in Spain with her other son, Bradley, four, as she tries to arrange emergency documentation to fly her younger son to England.
Lorraine said: "In some ways I don't want them to come here because they'll be in exactly the same situation as us, but they have nowhere there either.
"Luckily I'm a strong woman and I'm prepared to fight my corner on this."
A council spokesman said: "These are very complicated circumstances and while we continue provide temporary accommodation to Ms Marsland, we will explore all possible housing options."
The family were plunged into severe financial difficulties after they tried to sell their inherited home in Spain and discovered there was a huge second mortgage on it that they could not repay.
Strict embargo laws on repossessed properties in the country meant they were unable to retrieve any of their personal effects.
Lorraine said: "All I want is a place to live and my family back together again. Dylan's really missing his mum and brother.