Chickenley caravan man locked in benefits wrangle

HOME FROM HOME: David Facer at the caravan belonging to his friends Kevin and Tracey Dewhirst. (d07031256)
HOME FROM HOME: David Facer at the caravan belonging to his friends Kevin and Tracey Dewhirst. (d07031256)

DAVID Facer spent 14 months living in a tent, so he was delighted and grateful when an old friend invited him to move into a caravan in his garden.

Mr Facer, 47, an unemployed wagon driver in poor health, moved into the caravan at the home of Kevin and Tracey Dewhirst in Cedar Road, Chickenley, in January.

Wanting everything to be above board, he submitted a tenancy agreement to Kirklees Council and applied for housing benefit to be paid to the Dewhirsts.

But on February 29 he received a letter from the council’s Revenue and Benefits Service rejecting the claim. He is now lodging an appeal.

“I have cirrhosis of the liver,” said Mr Facer. “I became homeless following a dispute with my landlord and lived in a tent, pitched behind the advertising boards on Wakefield Road, for 14 months.

“I was so grateful when Kevin and Tracey said I could live in their caravan. I had no other options, my mother lives with my handicapped sister and my other brothers and sisters have families and no room to spare.”

Mr Facer sleeps in the caravan but has no toilet or bathroom facilities, so the Dewhirsts let him use theirs.

The letter from the benefits service rejecting the claim for housing benefit states that the agreement to make rent payments were not of a commercial nature ‘and appears to have been made to take advantage of the benefit scheme’.

The grounds for rejection were: the caravan is not static and could be moved at any time; Mr Facer uses the caravan to sleep in, but uses the Dewhirst family home for kitchen, bathroom and toilet facilities; the Dewhirsts are family friends and Mr Facer sometimes spends daytimes and evenings with the Dewhirst family.

Mr Facer said he would be appealing against the decision. “I am not trying to take advantage of the system,” he added.

Mrs Dewhirst said they were happy for Mr Facer to continue living in the caravan, which was bought as a summer camp-out for their five children.

She said: “David is an old friend of my husband’s. We couldn’t see him living in a tent like that any more, particularly in his state of health. They say the caravan could be moved – you’d need a crane to get it out of the back garden.”

A spokesman for Kirklees Council said: “Mr Facer has a month in which to appeal against the decision; therefore it would not be appropriate for us to comment.”