Case study created in collaboration with the Bristol Law Centre with thanks to Nathan FitzPatrick and Thea Grattidge.
Brian, 19, ended up in care (living with grandparents) at 17, after his parents’ relationship became abusive, including towards him. When he turned 18, he then went into a short-term youth hostel in London as he wasn’t getting on great with his grandparents and they felt that they couldn’t support him anymore. Unfortunately, he didn’t get on well in the hostel, mostly due to bullying from other residents, and spent much of his time in his room avoiding contact with other residents and his keyworkers.
Just after his 19th birthday, he came to Bristol to stay with a cousin who said there would be a job for him in a warehouse – this was cash-in-hand and most of it went to his cousin as rent. At first, Brian was very happy with this as it was the first time that he actually had money to go out, but he soon found sleeping on the sofa and the precarious nature of his work difficult. He looked for other jobs but couldn’t find anything due to his lack of qualifications.
After about six months of this his cousin told him to move out, as he was worried about his landlord finding out he had someone else living with him, which wasn’t allowed. Brian hadn’t managed to save up enough for a deposit on a new place and was only getting 16 – 20 hours a week in the warehouse, which meant he was only being paid £150 – £200 a week. In addition, his grandparents had received a letter chasing them for about £1000 of rent and service charge arrears he apparently owed from when he was staying at the hostel in London because he hadn’t made a Universal Credit application. They were angry about this and told him that he needed to contact the debt collection agency and tell them where he was living now.
Brian went to the local council who told him that unfortunately they couldn’t help him because he didn’t have a local connection, and that no social housing provider would take him with that level of debt anyway. He was told to go back to London and talk to the local council there.
Brian has now presented at a legal charity (CAB / Law Centre etc.) and explained his story. He has heard that people who were in care get given a flat, and that he can get his debt written off. He wants to stay in Bristol and make a start on an independent life but has no idea how to do this.