Mum who lost son to cancer served eviction notice after Universal Credit foul up

A woman who lost her leg just weeks after her son died from cancer was threatened with eviction because of a Universal Credit mix-up.

Linda Humphrey, 59, and her partner Norman Howe, 47, of Grimsby, were served an eviction notice by their estate agent after they had fallen more than £1,000 behind on their rent, when it was not paid to them through Universal Credit.

Linda, who lost her leg last September due to complications with her diabetes, said that all of their problems seemed to occur at once, as she had just lost her beloved son Paul, 37, three months before, reports the Grimsby Telegraph .

Paul had spent 45 weeks in Grimsby hospital with penile cancer before his death. His family had campaigned for a specially-adapted home for him in which to die in peace.

He had lost around 12st while in hospital, having weighed 42st when he was admitted.

But sadly, he died in hospital.

She said that Paul’s death played a huge emotional toll on her family, as well as a financial one, because before he was admitted to hospital he had helped to provide support with the rent and bills.

It also hit her ex-husband so hard that he was forced to leave his home due to panic attacks "fearing that he would die alone there", and he moved in with Linda, Norman and her other son.

Linda said: "Paul’s passing was very hard on us all, nobody should ever have to lose their child.

"Since then it just seems like life has got to be very cruel on us, because while we were still trying to cope with his loss, I found that due to my diabetes I had developed an infection in my foot that caused all of the bones to shatter and I was forced to have it amputated.

"As I normally took care of all the bills things just seemed to start to slip, and we have spiralled into all of this debt just to get by."

Linda had been receiving disability benefits since 2009, following an accident at work when she was a carer, while her partner Norman had been getting income support as he was her full-time carer.

Following the tragic events of last year, they say that they were advised to switch from their current benefits and go onto Universal Credit, as that would mean that they would receive more money than they had been before.

However the pair say that this just was not the case, and that the rent portion of their claim was not being paid directly to their landlord, despite assurances that it would be.

They also claim that even though they explained that they would need £207 a week for rent, they had in fact only being receiving £137, and this meant they were unable to pay it, or their arrears, putting them into even more debt.

Going into the Job Centre after receiving notice from their landlord to find out what the issue was, they were told that they would be able to get the correct benefits that they need if they sign up for a disability premium, which would give them the amount of help and support that they need.

But this premium would take 12 weeks to process, meaning that they would not actually receive it until after they are due to be evicted on June 21.

The couple say that because of their debts they have been forced to live on less than £200 a month, and that they have racked up further debt on credit cards as they have had to use them in order to buy food. Norman was even forced to sell his car in order to try and recoup some money.

Norman said: "We were advised to go onto Universal Credit because we were told that it would allow us to receive more money than we were currently getting, but that just didn’t seem to be the case.

"Our rent money was not being paid to our landlord, and when it started to be they were not providing enough money.

"Because of this we have been trying to live on less than £200 a month, I have had to sell my car, and we are relying on credit cards in order to do the shopping and put food on the table.

What is Universal Credit?

A single system replacing six benefits: Child and Working Tax Credits, Housing Benefits, Income Support, Jobseekers’ Allowance, and Employment and Support Allowance.

It was launched in 2013 as the pet project of Tory Iain Duncan Smith supposedly to make work pay.

Who claims it?

Low earners, those out of work and the sick or disabled. Already 610,000 people are on UC – 8% of benefit claimants.

It is being rolled out to individual Jobcentres including 52 in October 2017.

What are the problems?

Debt-ridden claimants must wait six weeks (five from early 2018) for their first payment, with 19% waiting longer than that and 4% waiting ten weeks in late 2017.

Research also suggests overall, UC leaves many working families worse off than the old system.

That is because payments taper away at 63p for every £1 claimants earn.

The timetable has also been put back nine times since 2013 after a string of glitches and will only be fully complete in late 2022.

"We are also having to balance this in between going to regular hospital appointments in Grimsby and Hull, everything just seems to be going wrong."

Linda says that they have looked at finding another property to live in, but because of her condition she needs certain requirements in her home, although currently her house only has make shift wheel-chair ramps and she "lives in one room all her life".

She also says that because of their rent arrears they have found it near impossible to find anywhere local that they could move to.

However there may be some light at the end of the tunnel as the Department of Work and Pensions have said that they have taken measures to elevate the couple from their difficulties.

A DWP spokesperson said: “We have paid all arrears and apologised for the delay, and they will now receive more each month on Universal Credit than they did under the previous system.”

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