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Chedgrave family in housing benefit row

PUBLISHED: 16:36 20 March 2008 | UPDATED: 07:17 01 August 2010

A MOTHER from Chedgrave has hit out at South Norfolk Council after claiming they refused to grant her daughters housing benefit - solely because they are related to their landlord.

A MOTHER from Chedgrave has hit out at South Norfolk Council after claiming they refused to grant her daughters housing benefit - solely because they are related to their landlord.

Sheila Orpet, who lives in Snows Hill, is angry because her daughters Jo and Sarah Orpet wish to move in with their brother Graham in a house in Chedgrave, but have been told they will not receive housing benefit because Graham would effectively be their landlord.

Both daughters have Down's syndrome and had previously been granted housing benefit when living at Baynard House in Chedgrave, as well as more recently when they were renting with Graham in a house in Loddon.

“We got housing benefit from them because my son cannot afford to pay rent for both of them,” explained Mrs Orpet. “It doesn't make any difference if Graham is their landlord - they still have to pay rent.

“Out of their income support and disability allowances we have now

got to help our son with the mortgage, as well as the utility bills and the dentist.

“I think it's terribly unfair because the housing benefit would make such a difference.”

Jo, 38, and Sarah, 29, who is adopted, moved out of Baynard House because of a change in management, which left Mrs Orpet unsure whether they would receive the right care.

They moved into a rented house in Loddon with their brother for eight months, where they were encouraged to live independent lives, helping out with the housework and receiving visits from their support worker in the afternoons when Graham, who is self-employed, went to work.

However, they were forced to move out as the landlord wanted full use of the house again, and have had to move in with their grandparents Sheila and Alan in their bungalow in Snows Hill, and Graham, 41, decided to buy the house in Church Close so he could

live with them again and so Jo and Sarah could be close to their grandparents.

However, even if they do have to lose out on housing benefit, Mrs Orpet is reluctant to send them back into care, and says they will have to “struggle on” if it never materialises.

“All I've ever tried to do with our girls is to give them normal lives that any young woman could expect,” she said.

“The girls are learning their independence, and they learnt so much in those eight months because they had to do things for themselves.

“I want them to do just what they want in their own home. And they absolutely worship Graham - he's a man in a million.”

The district council said it had not received an official claim, but even then it would have to adhere to the government legislation that says you cannot claim housing benefit if you live in the same dwelling as your landlord, and they are a close relative of you or your partner.

Garry Wheatley, cabinet member for resources at the council, said: “At the moment, South Norfolk Council has not received a claim.

“If and when we do, it will be processed in the normal way according to the legislation.”

However, a spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said it was in fact up to local government to look at each individual case: “Legislation empowers a local authority to look at each individual claim for housing benefit to

determine whether a bona-fide landlord and tenant relationship exists.

“It is for the local authority to make a decision on whether they can pay housing benefit based on the circumstances as they have been presented by the person or persons making the claim.”

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