This tells you everything about the direction of travel in Tory Britain.
Ian and Frances Cooper, from Aylsham, have been living in a Renault Kadjar for two months.
They have been unable to find a permanent residence after being evicted from a privately-rented flat because one of their three pets is not an assistance dog.
Seriously. Their local council appears to be penalising them for having a pet that they love.
They were evicted from a privately-rented bungalow after an attempt to claim housing benefit (or that component of Universal Credit) from North Norfolk District Council was turned down.
Since then, the council has tried to house them in a number of other places – none of which proved appropriate.
In one instance – a Premier Inn – they were told they could not stay because, while two of their Jack Russell terriers are assistance dogs, the third is not, and the hotel chain’s policy is only to allow assistance dogs in its rooms.
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman is to investigate a complaint by Mr and Mrs Cooper that NNDC did not award them the correct priority band, made unsuitable offers of interim accommodation, gave the wrong advice over whether or not the couple should have claimed universal credit or housing benefits and did not consider evidence of harassment from a landlord.
And in the meantime a man with spondylolisthesis of the spine – a condition which causes the vertebrae to slip out of place – who recently spent time in hospital with sepsis and now has a stoma bag, and a woman with fibromyalgia, are living with their dogs in a car.
Of course it is affecting their physical health – and inevitably it is affecting their mental well-being as well.
Personally, I would not blame the local council. I would blame the Conservative government.
It is the Tories who perverted the benefit system into a tool to persecute the vulnerable – especially people with long-term illnesses and/or disabilities like the Coopers.
There is no doubt in my mind that Iain Duncan Smith, the architect of these changes, would be absolutely delighted to hear that a disabled couple had been forced to live in a car with deteriorating mental and physical health because of him.
He knows the Department for Work and Pensions will always claim plausible deniability – no matter how damning the evidence against it.
But I wonder how long the Coopers – and who knows how many other families like them? – can survive in the punitive Tory system.
It’s time for change. These are people who have worked all their lives and instead of being able to rely on the system to keep them safe in a time of hardship, they have been – literally – thrown onto the streets.
There is only one way to achieve change for the better – change the government.
The Coopers’ story is a great reason to vote Labour in the general election.
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