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Disabled UK woman studies degree to help pay bills

Monday 31 March 2014

 

From StaffsLive:

 

Desiree Elliott
Desiree Elliott
 

Disabled Stoke-on-Trent woman studies degree to help pay bills

Antoine Omisore
March 28, 2014

Exclusive
A disabled Stoke-on-Trent woman in her 50s has been forced to sign up for a university degree – so she can afford to live!

Desiree Elliott, 58, from Meir, says the only way she can survive is by studying so she can claim a Student Finance Loan.

And she knows she is not going to have to pay it back as she is unlikely to work and earn £21,000 a year.

Mrs Elliott claims she has been forced into the action after Stoke-on-Trent City Council raised the amount of council tax that benefit claimants have to pay by 30%.

Mrs Elliott, who suffers from the brain disorder Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, says she was told not to bother applying for any more help when she reached out to the council.

She said: “The changes to the bedroom tax and council tax rates meant that once I had paid for gas, electric and water, I was left with £7.50 a week for food, clothing, transport and anything else.

“I was thinking how do I continue to live?

“I was offered a form for the additional support through the Council Tax Hardship Fund.

“But then I was told by a housing officer not to bother filling it in as I would not get it! It left me disillusioned.”

Mrs Elliott’s story emerged after figures from a StaffsLive Freedom of Information request revealed the council has dished out just 10% of a £200,000 fund available for those most in need.

The council has paid just £20,282.69 to the 117 applications that were approved out of 291 applications received.

Disgusted by the revelations, Mrs Elliott said: “I wish I could say I was angry. I just feel physically sick that human beings treat people in this way.

“They think they are smart and clever. They sit and judge people in their circumstances when they have no idea what it feels like to be in that position, it just makes me sick.”

The former councillor decided her only option was to get into education, applying for a three-year Sociology degree at Staffordshire University.

After being accepted on the course, Mrs Elliott, who lives on her own, will now receive £9,269 for each academic year.

This is made up from her student loan and a special support grant.

“I’m now a mature student, being one has actually helped me financially,” she added.

“I’m not entitled to benefits anymore as my income is higher, I don’t even have to pay council tax. The  university has given me a new lease of life. It means I can live.

“The government is quite willing to pay my tuition fees and give me a significant amount of money that I am unlikely to pay back, albeit to a very high cost to the public.

“If I hadn’t of become a student I would have gone under.”

Cllr Terry Crowe, of Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Finance, Procurement and Commissioning committee, said: “At the end of the day it just depends whether they have met our criteria.

“We have limits, the law states that if they qualify they shall get it.

“We try our best to ensure that anyone in need will get what they are entitled to.”

(Additional reporting by Mike Barnes)

 

The DVD can be purchased here.

 


 

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