The Irvine family was rendered homeless after a fire over shelters over £ 1200 a month was calculated

An Irvine family who lost their home after a fire and then battled Covid say they are now in the red over emergency shelters.

The wrecked mother of two Ashley Armstrong and her fiancé Sean Marshall are charged £ 336 a week for their temporary “empty shell” accommodation.

Since the couple cannot afford to pay the “insane amount” they pay £ 80 a week instead. Meanwhile, they have a debt of £ 256 a week – £ 1,024 a month – until they are moved to a meetinghouse.

The couple are also more than £ 1,900 in arrears after trying three times to prove to the housing team that they were not eligible.

Carer Ashley and her fiance, a skilled worker, were saving up for their dream wedding and hanging out with their two children, ages four and two, when an accidental fire cost them their Castlepark property in September 2020.

They lived with relatives for months but struggled to cope with the overcrowded conditions – and the situation deteriorated noticeably when the family signed Covid for Christmas.

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It was soon looking good when the North Ayrshire Housing team found temporary accommodation for the suffering quartet at Gigha Place in Irvine.

Unfortunately, it turned out to be another blow to the family of four because of the rent they have to pay.

Ashley told the Irvine Herald, “It’s an insane amount of money. We’re so overwhelmed with all of this.

“In January we tried three times to declare that we were not entitled to housing benefit, but were fobbed off and asked not to pay anything until we received our temporary housing documents.

“We’re just trying to rebuild our lives after the fire and then we’re left with all of this debt.

“The situation is really worrying. Because we work, we are punished.

“Those who don’t work get a helping hand, crisis credit for their white goods, bills that are covered, and even money to paint and lay floors.

“But because we work, we have an empty house and debts.

“We were told it would be a little more expensive than the normal rent, but we didn’t get the number until February. We tried back and forth to get help but nothing has changed.

“We were on the waiting list for a meetinghouse, but despite the crowded conditions, we had a low priority.”

Ashley Armstrong with her two children

Ashley Armstrong with her two children

Holding back tears, Ashley added, “It’s horrible. I wake up every day to see my children in an empty shell.

“All they have in their room is their bed and clothes underneath in boxes and a few toys.

“I tried to lighten up the place with a change of the brightly colored sheets for them; that’s all I can give them.

“We can work and we want to be good role models for the children to show them how to get ahead in life, but it’s difficult when the government encourages bad work ethics.

“Why work when you can get away with less?”

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Ashley claims that when she asked for financial help, she was referred to the mental health team.

“The only help they have suggested is to speak to the mental health team or find a house outside of Irvine, but we are reluctant to do so because of our support system,” she said, “here we have one Life created and where the children are settled.

“A lot of families have or have been through this in Scotland and it is not fair.”

Wedding plans for the couple are now put on hold.

“The wedding was on the backbone because of Covid, but that’s out of the question now,” she said.

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“Sean works in Edinburgh six days a week and rushes home every night to see the kids for 10 minutes at night before they go to bed, and what is this all for?”

North Ayrshire Council declined to inquire about why the rent for emergency shelter for the Armstrong-Marshall family is so high.

A spokesman said: “We are unable to discuss individual cases, but all crisis funds and discretionary housing fund applications will be assessed equally and we will provide assistance if the appropriate criteria are met.

“We know these are extremely difficult times. When someone has financial problems and falls behind in paying back their rent, we will always look for solutions.

“This may include temporary housing and working out a manageable payment plan to make up for rent arrears.”

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