Ben­e­fits man told to pay back £21k

CLAIMANT’S ANGER: Fa­ther of seven con­sult­ing lawyers

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - FRONT PAGE - by Nick Cullen

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.

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Christo­pher Hol­ness who has been told he has to pay back £21,500 of wrongly claimed ben­e­fits

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