An 'Open Letter' to David Cameron - 10 Downing Street
cc Ed Miliband & Natascha Engel MP
|Karen holding a picture of husband Andrew|
Before his death my husband had been receiving Disability Benefits. In his younger days my husband worked at Bolsover Colliery, after leaving school he went on to work as a builder / roofer. Taking part in the construction of Carsington reservoir dam. He retired early on health grounds. He was a member of Derbyshire Bikers.
I buried my husband on Thursday, June 13.
We informed the benefits office two days after his death. ALL benefits were promptly stopped, leaving our family with no source of income & no explanation as to what we must do or where to turn for help & assistance - we had the 'safety net' removed, in free-fall.
I spent the next few weeks visiting the Benefits Office & making phone calls in a state of pure grief & desperation trying to get help. However, I was passed from one department to the next, each time no one had a clue as to what I was entitled to - they were simply not interested. I was told if I had been 45 years old at the time of my husbands death I would have been able to claim a 'Widows Pension Allowance'. I was 45 on the 2nd August, just two months after his death.
Jobcentre Plus informed me that the only thing I could do, was to make a claim for Jobseekers Allowance. I pointed out that I thought JSA was for people looking for work - she replied in an irritated voice "Well you are fit for work aren't you" ? I was absolutely shocked & devastated. I was grief stricken, I didn't know what day it was or what planet I was on. I couldn't eat, sleep or function properly - I think its fair to say I was in 'traumatic shock'. I was constantly vomiting & having panic attacks. I had been with my husband since I was 14 years old - I didn't know what to do. I didn't want to live anymore.
With the help of family members, I filled in various forms for benefits. These 'forms' are a 'minefield' in trying to understand & 'overtly complicated' at best. We finally received a letter regarding a claim for Employment Support Allowance. It took them so long in dealing with the claim & after a period of four weeks struggling with no money whatsoever, I was forced to work in the local shop to ensure I could feed the family - working 16 hours a week.
From that point onwards I've had nothing but trouble with North East Derbyshire District Council regarding Housing & Council Tax Benefits. Mistake after mistake & misinformation from the benefits agency. It has resulted in over a hundred letters in nearly a year, informing me what I should be paying. No sooner had one letter been sent out, the council would change its mind yet again - throwing me into financial chaos. They sent letter after letter asking for more information & suspended my claim on numerous occasions - this in turn created huge rent arrears & threats of eviction. Letters sent regarding impending court action seeking to evict us, has caused me to become seriously depressed. I spent days upon days visiting the housing department trying to provide the information they required.
Finally I received a letter stating that my Housing & Council Tax had been reviewed & that I was no longer in arrears. I was told how much I needed to pay - My relief was instant, it was now February 2014 & this nightmare had been going on for months. I was earning £100 per week working, & receiving child tax credits for my daughter who was doing a childcare course. I was getting tax credits for myself, calculated that I could just about manage to survive & pay the rent, council tax etc - little did I know that my ordeal was far from over .....
I then received a letter from HMRC regarding Tax Credits, asking for more information regarding my daughter (Jade) - I contacted her learning provider (AgeUK) asking for more details regarding the educational course she was on. All the details were was passed onto HMRC - the swift result was .... all tax credits promptly stopped. In a state of panic I rang HMRC to investigate & was told it was because my daughter was doing an 'advanced childcare course', & therefore I wasn't entitled to any tax credits.
The council reviewed both my Housing & Council Tax benefit twice over a period of weeks with incorrect information. A final review stated that I must pay £96 rent plus council tax & water charges - in total I have less than £40 a week to buy food, gas, electric plus other living expenses. In addition the council have informed me that I now owe over £1,400 in arrears & £322.83 council tax arrears. HMRC are harrassing me for £3,000 in repayment in tax credit.
Nearing the anniversary of my husbands death, it's clear that my nightmare is to continue. There is no safety net for me - there is no social security provision ! I'm at my wits end, not knowing which way to turn. I cannot survive on such a small amount of money & god only knows where the money is going to come from to pay these arrears. I'm sorry to bore those who have taken the time to read my story, but I have not chosen the situation I find myself in - I've fallen on bad times, stuck in quicksand, struggling to get out while people simply walk on by - conclusion ..... #help.
North East Derbyshire District Council have sent a letter addressed to my husband 'Andrew Siddall' a year after his death demanding £1,400 within 14 days - despite being told a thousand times, my husband has died .....
Finally I urge readers to support & sign the petition calling for a 'Public Inquiry' regarding the systematic abuse of Benefit Claimants >> http://t.co/bHg7eM2pZS
Karen Siddall wife of Andrew
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