A MUM-of-10 from Latvia who claimed £34,000 in benefits has been reported in the national press as wanting a bigger house for her family because her home in Boston is ‘too small’.
Single mum Linda Kozlovska, 31, is quoted in The Sun saying that her three-bedroom terraced home is not big enough.
The self-employed cleaner is said to have moved to the UK four years ago with three children and now lives with 10 in the town centre home.
She is said to pay £100 to a private landlord while on the council’s waiting list.
She told the paper that the children share bedrooms and she has been forced to rearrange the living room to make extra sleeping space.
She told The Sun: “They don’t have a big enough house. I want a bigger house. I don’t like it here.”
She said her annual benefit payments include £527 child tax credit and working tax credit.
Coun Mike Gilbert, Boston Borough Council housing portfolio holder, told The Standard that Miss Kozlovska’s situation is far from typical.
He said: “I am sympathetic with her needs I am also sympathetic with the needs of 10 children and it is not ideal that they are living in overcrowded accommodation.
“On the other hand providing accommodation for a mother with 10 children is a fairly big ask in more areas, let alone Boston where that isn’t readily available.”
He added: “I wouldn’t want to leave the Boston public with the view that all the migrants came with lots of kids and live here in overcrowded houses.
“This is not typical or widespread.”
The council has recently launched its five-year housing strategy where it will look to tackle the borough’s housing needs up until 2017.
He said that the plan will deal with overcrowded housing but said the main need in the coming years will in fact be for flats for single people.
The plan, out for consultation now, includes a bid to ask people to rent out a spare room.
When contacted by The Standard, Miss Kozlovska declined to comment further.
Today (Friday) the story has been picked up by the Daily Express and Daily Mail and sparked a big debate about the benefits system.
Boston MP Mark Simmonds told The Standard: “This is exactly why I have always supported a ceiling on benefits. Work should always pay.
“We should bear in mind that this does appear to be an exceptional case. In my 11 years as an MP I have never come across a case such as this one involving a foreign national.”
Centrepoint Outreach manager John Marshall said he could not comment on individual cases, especially as he did not know the specifics of what Miss Kozlovska needed, however generally he said occurances like this were a most likely a rarity which ‘the media have a tendency to pick up on’.
He said: “There will be large families in the borough and a number of people waiting to move to a larger property
“But I think it’s a rarity, it’s not as common as it used to be.
“There are several thousand people on the housing register with not a lot of chance to move.”
He added that the charity keeps an eye on available social housing properties published in a housing association magazine and he had only seen one four-bedroom property advertised in the period between April to August and that homes with more bedrooms would be even rarer.
On the amount of money she receives he said: “I can see what issues people would have with this, it does seem like a lot of money.
“However, it’s how they then use that, it’s the practical issues.”
Boston Labour councillor Paul Gleeson echoed the view that it may be difficult to find a house big enough for such a large family in Boston.
He said Government changes being introudced by Iain Duncan Smith would cap Miss Kozlovska’s benefits at £26,000 from April.
He said that the borough, and the rest of the country, will have to address what happens to the families affected by that.
Mr Gleeson said: “My personal belief is that everybody should have the ability to have a decent roof over their head in this country in the 21st century.
“Having that number of children is her choice and a lot of people will think it is wrong for her to be dependent on the state.
“But are we going to hurt her children? It’s not an easy situation.”There’s no clear right or wrong. Making this family homeless or live in cramped conditions? I’m not sure that’s how we want this country to be.”
In response to the article in today’s Sun newspaper, Boston Borough Council head of housing, property and communities Andy Fisher said:
“Boston Borough Council is currently involved with the premises and is working with the family and the landlord to address a number of relatively minor disrepair items, at the landlord’s expense.
“The property is not a House in Multiple Occupation; we can confirm that it is in fact home to a single large family.
“The tenant’s financial matters are of course private and personal to them.
“The council is not aware of any complaints of anti-social behaviour at this address.
“In common with most councils Boston Borough Council does have other large families on its housing waiting list awaiting larger accommodation, but this family is at the upper end of the spectrum.
“The accommodation does provide a stable environment for the family.”
Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, was quoted in the national media describing this as a ‘shocking example’ and says it shows our welfare system is being abused.
He said: “Proper controls should be in place to prevent benefits tourism from swallowing up British taxpayers’ money, but EU rules leave ministers at Westminster unable to do anything about it.
“Regardless of whether claimants are British or not, any system which provides subsidies worth tens of thousands a year to a family of 10 children is in serious need of reform.”
He said it was ‘simply not fair’ for taxpayers to pick up the bill.