Mentally ill man faces eviction in benefits wrangle: Housing disabled schizophrenic in care home could cost the state pounds 5,000 a month, instead of pounds 1,200 a month to pay mortgage

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The Independent Online
A severely disabled schizophrenic man faces eviction from his home to live, at greater expense, in sheltered or residential care because of bureaucratic bungles.

The Nationwide building society is to seek a repossession order on Robert Moore's house in Addlestone, Surrey, to recover mortgage arrears of pounds 8,700 which have built up since the Department of Social Security stopped benefit payments to cover his housing costs, even though it had paid the mortgage for four years.

The mortgage is about pounds 1,200 a month, but if he is evicted the local social services or housing departments may have to pay far more to accommodate him. Accommodation and care suitable for his physical and mental needs could cost about pounds 5,000 a month - at least pounds 45,000 extra to the state a year. Part of this extra cost would be for intensive nursing, now provided free by Mr Moore's sister, Rosemary.

The dispute over who is responsible for Mr Moore's housing needs and lack of co- ordination between departments makes a mockery of the Government's policy of caring for disabled and vulnerable people in the community.

Mr Moore, 45, has suffered from schizophrenia since 1970 after a nervous breakdown. He became paralysed after jumping from a first floor window at a hostel for the mentally ill in 1987. While he was in hospital his sister tried unsuccessfully to arrange accommodation with Surrey County Council for when he was discharged.

Miss Moore then applied to build a home for her brother on land attached to her own home but was refused planning permission by Runnymede Borough Council because it was in a green belt.

So she bought a bungalow suitable for adaptation for her brother, paying pounds 144,000, with a 100 per cent mortgage secured on her own home. Miss Moore had been advised that Runnymede council would have to pay her brother housing benefit and planned to charge him just enough rent to cover the mortgage repayments.

After a long dispute the council agreed to pay some housing benefit, but less than the mortgage repayments. The council said it could provide cheaper alternative accommodation, but when she applied for housing for her brother the council admitted it did not have suitable accommodation.

In 1990, the DSS agreed to pay the rent through Mr Moore's Income Support payments, backdated to 1988. But in December 1992, the DSS told her it would no longer pay the mortgage interest through Income Support because Mr Moore was a tenant.

An appeal tribunal in January 1993 agreed the DSS did not have liability to pay the mortgage interest because the mortgage was in his sister's name. However, on appeal, the Social Security Commissioner ruled last December that the DSS does have liability to pay the mortgage interest.

The DSS has still not paid any of the money owed since 1992. Arrears of pounds 7,500 have accumulated and the building society's patience is running out. On 24 May at Staines County Court it will apply for repossession.

In order to avoid her brother's eviction Miss Moore has applied to Surrey County Council to pay off the arrears, arguing that under the Mental Health Act it has a duty to ensure adequate after-care services for her brother, including housing. The council argues that it does not have powers to pay mortgage arrears.

The National Schizophrenia Fellowship, which is helping Mr Moore to fight the case, is now seeking a judicial review of the county council's decision. But it is unlikely to come in time to prevent his eviction.

(Photograph omitted)