Disability news

Disabled people are sleeping rough behind a DWP building in London

two pictures of disabled homeless people in london, one of a man in a tent and another image of a woman standing next to a tent

Nested behind the Adelphi building in London are a line of tents, underneath the canvas are homeless disabled people, a few metres away from where the Department for Work and Pensions [DWP] had a number of their offices.

A recent article published by Disability News Service [DNS] reported there were 10 tents in the area, which overlooks the Thames, pitched against the wall.

The online outlet interviewed 4 of the homeless people camping out night after night, they were all unaware that they were sleeping next to a building which used to be a DWP office.

Iesha Muhammad shares a tent with her husband who has Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis  [ALS], the couple receive universal credit, but the amount is not enough to keep them with a roof over their heads.

She told DNS: “We are on universal credit, but it’s less than it should be.

“We have been told numerous times we cannot have crisis loans. It’s either life or death on the streets.”

Alex arrived in the UK thirteen years ago working on construction sites, but since developing a heart condition he has been out of work.

He uses an implantable cardioverter defibrillator [ICD] for his health condition as well as living with epilepsy and a mental health illness.

Alex receives £500 a month on Personal Independence Payment [PIP], but says it’s “far away not enough”.

He added:  “I am trying to stay positive. I feel sad to see so many [homeless people]”

Unlike the two previous homeless people, Brian Smith does not blame the DWP for being on the streets.

Having mental and physical disabilities, including schizophrenia, he was sectioned following his brother’s death forcing him to leave his flat in Oxfordshire.

Until his tenancy is up, he is not eligible to claim financial support, however he currently receives employment and support allowance [ESA] and the daily living and mobility elements of PIP.

Despite some days being better than others Smith is enjoying the company of his fellow homeless friends.

He said: “I have never felt better. For me too much time on your own isn’t good for you.

“I need people around me. Down here you’re left alone [by the authorities].”

But he understands the frustration and anger of other disabled people who are not being financially supported by the government.

He said: “Some people have got no benefits. People like us who do get benefits do try and help them out.

“I can’t see one of my fellow men struggling for a sandwich or a cup of tea.

“I know quite a few here don’t get benefits or have been suspended for some reason or other.”

Smith, who is receiving support from the St. Martin-in-the-Fields day centre, believes 90 percent of the homeless people who are camping behind the Adelphi building. 

He said: “If you go there between eight and nine [in the morning] you will see them all queuing up inside.

“You will realise just how many disabled people are on the street.

“The big majority of the people you will talk to will be disabled people in one way or another.”

DNS spoke to officials about the number of disabled people finding themselves homeless and if universal credit is playing a part in the ongoing crisis.

A Westminster council spokesperson said: “As the centre of London, Westminster is a destination for rough sleepers from both the UK as well as abroad and the council spends far more than any other council – £7million a year – to help those arriving here.

“We work with charity partners to provide outreach teams across the city.

“These teams work day and night to find, and offer support to, people sleeping rough on our streets. Known gathering places are visited frequently.

“We aim to assess every person on the streets based on their specific disabilities or vulnerability, with either the council or our charity partners offering support based on individual needs.

“We appreciate each person has unique, complex needs and many have physical disabilities or serious mental health problems which can create barriers to accessing help.

“Our staff do everything they can to accommodate these specific needs. Regrettably not all those with complex needs choose to accept support.”

The council said they are aware homeless people may not be disabled when they first start sleeping rough but can go on to develop a physical or mental health condition.

They added it is their intention to support and help individuals such as these who are in vulnerable situations.

A spokesperson for the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, said since he was first elected in 2016 the budget supporting people sleeping rough has quadrupled to “record funding to homelessness charities and service providers across the capital, helping over 16,000 people off the streets”.

She added: “But Sadiq is well aware that more support is needed.

“Disabled people have been disproportionately affected by Tory cuts to our social security system and to council budgets, along with ministers’ continuing failure to ban ‘no fault’ evictions so that renters are secure in their homes.

“This is why he has repeatedly called on the government to give London the funding it needs to carry on delivering more genuinely affordable homes.

“If Sadiq is re-elected on May 2nd, he will continue to do everything he can to end street homelessness in our city and to provide support to disabled people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.”

A government spokesperson said: “We know the challenges many are facing, which is why we are increasing disability benefits by 6.7 per cent and providing an unprecedented £108 billion cost of living support package.

“We are also spending £2.4 billion to help people at risk of homelessness and support rough sleepers and will continue to work with local authorities to help people off the streets for good.”

The DWP went on to say the number of families with disabled members living in poverty, after housing costs, dropped by 100,000 between 2022 and 2023.

[ Over 3,000 people sleep rough on any night across the UK, 279,000 are living in temporary accommodation. ]

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