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Friday, 16 May 2014

Husband killed no safety net - one year on the nightmare continues

One year on, the misery continues for group member of Respect For the Unemployed & Benefit Claimants

An 'Open Letter' to David Cameron - 10 Downing Street
cc Ed Miliband  & Natascha Engel MP

Karen holding a picture of  husband Andrew
I'm writing in a desperate attempt to be heard regarding the situation I find myself in. On the 1st June 2013 my husband Andrew Siddall was killed in an awful road accident along with his best friend. Another biker from Sheffield was also killed in the same accident.

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.

HMRC have stated that I'm not entitled to working tax credits because my daughter was classed as a 'non dependent' - they also stated I would have to be working at least 30 hours a week before being entitled. I approached my employer & requested more hours not realising what else I could do. I did managed to increase my hours from 16 to 26. I inform the council of the change in circumstances in work hours & that tax credits had been stopped.

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

yours sincerely

Karen Siddall wife of Andrew

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