Tuesday 14 September 2010

Church handouts feed family of man with epilepsy

Sir Gerald Kaufman, MP for Manchester Gorton, has intervened in the case of one of his constituents who had their tax credits cut off by HMRC.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Kaufman pointed out that his constituent has severe epilepsy but had only been able to feed his family by depending on handouts from parishioners at his local church. He challenged the Chancellor, George Osbourne, to rectify the man's situation urgently.

Let's not forget that the fate of all disabled people rests in George Osbourne's hands at present. Is he going to consign all 10 million of us to relying on charitable donations to survive? Kaufman's constituent is not an unusual case  - we are hearing more and more anecdotal stories like this. If you know of any disabled person who has been left in penury like this, let us know!


  1. Thanks for this. Cases like this need exposure so that some people's views can be challenged - there seems to be such a certainty that benefits etc are in some way easy to get hold of. I know veru little of Gerald Kaufman apart from his party, but credit to him for raising the issue in the House.

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  3. As the author of this post, I should point out that Kaufman is my MP. I have found him consistently hands-on whenever I have asked him to sign early day motions or do other things. As a journalist, I also monitor his Commons activity and I'm pleased to say he has a fairly good track record there too (twice in the last week he's intervened in deportation cases where it was clear the deportees had not had fair hearings at the immigration panel).

    I've raised disability issues myself with him on several occasions - I'm really delighted to see him taking up cases like this, which are truly shocking in such a wealthy society.

  4. Thanks for that, Wordsmith, it makes things seem a little brighter, knowing there's someone in the Commons doing a good job :). To be fair, I think there are probably quite a few decent MPs, but it's hard to find one who'll defy their whip.

  5. I'm left with negative income due to mistakes made by my local council and the DWP.

    In 2008 I applied for housing benefit and council tax benefit, because my income of £169 per fortnight IB was impossible to live on. I live in one of the cheapest rent areas in the country (£400pcm for 3 bed house) but with food, medication, utility bills, transport to hospital and council tax etc. on top of my £200pcm share of the rent, I was drowning in debt and fear. I'd been denied Income Support on the grounds that I'd apparently been working, owned two houses, and took frequent foreign holidays. (They mixed me up with my mother in a different county, who shares my name and the same local benefits office). I was told if I appealed that my IB
    would be cancelled, and I'd be charged with fraud.

    8 weeks later - I was awarded HB to cover my rent, and CTB of £40pcm.

    5 months after that - I find out that I've been paid the wrong amount of IB. I was under 35 but had never received the under-35 premium. complained to DWP who adjusted my benefit, then I contacted the council to inform them I'd be getting an extra £60pcm. Unfortunately the DWP not only adjusted my benefit, but they adjusted my file to say that I'd been in receipt of the higher amount for two years. The council decided I'd committed fraud against them for two years (remember I'd only been in receipt of HB/CTB for 7 months) and adjusted those benefits downward, calculated that I owed them £3000, and cut my HB to £30pw and CTB to £3pw. Was then threatened with court action for CT arrears (how could I afford my £60pcm share of CT with such a low income?), but managed to negotiate a household rate of £100pcm CT payment, and £30pcm arrears to avoid court action. They were figures chosen by the council, who then proceeded to take £250pcm and also cancel my HB and CTB.

    There are no charities in my area to turn to, it's too deprived even for that. We have CAB service for two hours a week, that's it. Any appeals to the council are met with "Tough, you need to provide proof", they've conveniently 'lost' the bank statements and award notices from when I applied. When I send the proof they say "Sorry, you can only appeal decisions within X weeks, too late".

    That's all well and good if you're healthy and have the time and money, not to mention the ability to call the local office, visit them (5 miles away, we have no buses, I'm blind and can't drive), or have constant uptime and can schedule things. Another thing I can't do.

    My budget currently looks a bit like this:

    Income - £420pcm IB+£150pcm DLA.

    Outgoings - £200pcm rent, £85pcm utilities, £125 CT, £10pcm prescription prepayment.

    None of my other bills are being paid, food - ha, what food? Luckily my housemate is incredibly sweet. I have no money for clothing, personal hygiene, to get to appointments, I'm trapped. If not for the internet I'd be almost totally isolated.

    Both the DWP and local council say the burden of proof is on me. I freely admit I've started to self harm again after years on the wagon, I feel sick every time I hear of more benefit cuts. All I want is to be normal again, to work. I didn't choose to be ill, I want to be me. I was disabled and working very hard, but at some stage it's just not possible when your condition has degenerated too far.

    I'm terrified of the future. I'm only 30, I don't want this and can't do it much longer.