BENEFITS WERE STOPPED ‘BECAUSE I WAS DEAD’
‘Shocked’ woman hits out after council staff thought someone else’s obituary notice was hers:
THE family of a sick woman got a letter saying her benefits would be stopped because she was dead, after council chiefs thought she was the person whose obituary they had read.
Mair Jones received the notice – addressed to her executors – that the council tax reduction on her Caernarfon flat, and other entitlements, would be cut as she had passed away.
But Mrs Jones was alive and feeling much better – recovering from cancer, chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment. And, to make matters worse, it happened again.
The reason for the mistake was that council staff scoured the death notices in our sister paper the Daily Post for potential council taxpayers who had passed away.
Mrs Jones said the letter had affected her recovery and caused distress to her family.
The mum of two, and gran of four, said she was shocked to receive the letter, which related to another woman who had lived in the same block of flats.
“But her name is nothing like mine,” Mrs Jones added.
The letter from Gwynedd council‘s benefits service was addressed to the “executors of her estate”.
“I’ve not been well and this letter came as a shock. I called the council straight away,” she said.
Despite assurances from council officials the letter was a mistake and she should ignore it, a further letter arrived the following day.
“That was addressed to the executors too and it began ‘please accept my sincere apologies of your recent loss.’
“There was a form that had to be filled in enclosed with it. I looked at it and wrote on it “This is a disgrace. I’m still alive.”
“I went to see the council and eventually got to speak to a manager on the phone.
“He was very apologetic and explained to me they monitor the Daily Post. But they should make doubly sure they get the right person.
“Why didn’t they contact my sons first, or check with CCG who own the flat,” she said.
In a letter apologising, Taxation Manager Bleddyn Jones says: “We monitor the Daily Post newspaper online daily to try to identify local council taxpayers who have passed away so that their relatives do not receive council tax bills or further correspondence from us requesting payment or attempting to address the person who has passed away. We fully accept responsibility for our error in mistakenly identifying you from the newspaper article.
“I have spoken at length with the person responsible for the error and explained to them how upset you were. They also extend their personal apology to you.
“We have considered how we can tighten up our processes and will be implementing a few changes to try and reduce the possibility of a similar incident for another taxpayer.”