Sam Greenhill, Daily Mail (London), April 22, 2011
A family of 12 asylum-seekers is being put up in a vast house costing taxpayers nearly £1,500 a week, it has emerged.
The Ethiopian couple and their ten children are receiving a staggering £1,460 a week in housing benefit alone.
The jobless couple will also be eligible for other handouts such as unemployment and child benefits, which could potentially add up to an additional £1,300 a week.
Council officials, who refused to give further details of the case, found the family a mini mansion after they arrived in London from Africa in the past few weeks. It was not revealed whether the family is suspected of entering the UK illegally before claiming asylum.
The couple receive a weekly sum of £1,462.90, according to the council’s housing benefits claims department, meaning that the family will cost taxpayers £76,000 in housing benefit alone if allowed to stay in the property for 12 months.
The couple would realistically have to be among the nation’s top earners on wages of £230,000 before tax to afford to spend the same amount of money on rent or a mortgage.
First, the husband presented himself at a housing office in Tower Hamlets, East London, stating he was a refugee and homeless.
Then, days after he was helped, he turned up again with the 11 other members of his family and demanded they all be housed together. It is yet another example of benefits claimants being put up in huge homes at the expense of taxpayers who could never afford such a property themselves.
The bill for housing benefit has risen from £14billion ten years ago to £21billion–more than the country spends on policing and universities combined.
Last night Tower Hamlets’ opposition leader, Conservative councillor Peter Golds, said of the latest case: ‘It is utterly, utterly ridiculous. Why do they need to be housed in one of the most expensive areas of Britain, at great cost to ordinary families who cannot afford the same for themselves?
‘Paying a yearly rate of £76,000 for one family shows the ludicrous amount of public money being paid to put people into expensive housing.’
Benefits payouts in Tower Hamlets alone have cost the taxpayer a mammoth £223million in just one year.
Figures show the council–the poorest in the nation–is spending a third of a million pounds a year on housing just ten families, including the Ethiopian couple and their children.
The other nine receive between £590 and £613 a week in housing benefit. Crucially for the Ethiopian family, they began claiming benefits shortly before the April 1 cut-off for large claims introduced by the Government to tackle fears the system was being abused.
Chancellor George Osborne announced the shake-up after an Afghan woman, Toorpakai Saiedi, and her family were revealed to have been put up in a £1.2million house in Acton, West London, in 2008.
But although benefits capping began on April 1 for all new claimants, those already getting more than £20,000 a year in housing benefit are being given up to nine months to adjust.
The Department for Work and Pensions says housing benefit has been out of control.
A spokesman said: ‘We can’t justify having welfare families in wealthy properties in expensive areas which hard-working families can’t afford. We have to be fair. People on benefits have to make the same choices as the rest of the population.’
Ray Boulger, a mortgage consultant at City firm John Charcol, said: ‘A family of 12 bringing in £1,460-a-week housing benefit demonstrates why the Government is changing the benefit rules.
‘Here is a family with ten children who normally wouldn’t be able to pay that amount–but the state is encouraging people like them to have many more children than they can afford.’
A spokesman for Tower Hamlets council refused to comment on the Ethiopian family, saying: ‘We ensure all claims are processed in line with current guidance.’