Benefits man told to pay back £21k
CLAIMANT’S ANGER: Father of seven consulting lawyers
A FATHER of seven has been told to pay back £21,500 in benefits, he says because of a clerical error.
Christopher Holness, 31, of Leaveland Close in Stanhope, has not worked since suffering blood clots in his legs in 2002, when he began claiming incapacity benefit – which supports people who are unable to work.
In that time, he and his partner Deborah Hills, who have been together for 12 years, also received income support to help bring up their family.
After a medical examination in September 2005, doctors decided there was no longer anything wrong with Mr Holness, and said he was fit to work.
But because income support can only be claimed by people who are unable to work, Mr Holness, who cannot read or write, went to the Jobcentre and the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) office in Ashford to ask if there was another type of benefit he could claim.
He says he was told the family could carry on claiming income support because Miss Hills is a full time carer for one of the children and thus is unable to work.
But at the start of this year, the money was cut off because Mr Holness is allowed to work, and it was being paid to him rather than Miss Hills.
Now Mr Holness has received a letter demanding he repays £21,542 in wrongfully paid benefits – to be repaid in fortnightly instalments of £11.51 for the next 72 years.
Mr Holness says he is consulting lawyers to see if the error can be corrected. Meanwhile, he has sent letters of protest to the House of Commons, the Prime Minister and Ashford MP Damian Green.
In the letter, he says: “I have now been made to feel like a fraudster. Because of a name mistake, I have to pay back about one year’s money.
“I find the system a total shambles, and this is an unarguable joke at me and my family’s expense.”
Jonathan Hall, press officer at the DWP, said: “Jobcentre Plus does not comment on individual cases but we were concerned to hear of Mr Holness’ experience, and Paul Williams, customer services director for Jobcentre Plus South East, has requested that the matter be investigated further directly with Mr Holness”
The family is now once again receiving income support, in Miss Hills’ name, and Mr Holness has signed off Job Seeker’s allowance.
Christopher Holness who has been told he has to pay back £21,500 of wrongly claimed benefits