Sometimes The Benefits System Really Does Deal A Vulnerable Claimant A Bad Hand?

Quite by chance … trawling for X and found Y … a classic for this section !

Quite a supporting cast … including : DWP / Carers Allowance / PIP / UC / Housing Benefit / Bedroom Tax and special guest , Foodbanks !

**Disabled mum had her benefits cut just hours after her husband died of cancer – and had to use a credit card to bury him.

Former carer Hayley Reay, 43, was shocked when her benefits stopped the day after she lost her husband.**

When Hayley Reay lost her husband David to lung cancer, it felt like her world had ended. She held him in her arms, kissing him tearfully goodbye as he slipped away, and consoling herself with the fact that at least he was at peace now.

She thought she would be too, once she’d celebrated his life with their loved ones at his funeral and her grief gave way to acceptance. But just a day after David’s death Hayley, from Hartlepool, was dealt a second blow when her benefits were suddenly stopped.

With just over £100 in the bank and no savings to fall back on, she couldn’t pay the rent, let alone cover the cost of his funeral.

“I was going through hell and in the first six days of losing him I had to go to the job centre seven times,” Ms Reay told i. “The bedroom tax hit, my PIP stopped, it was an absolute nightmare.”

The couple had been together for eight years and married for three. Both of them worked until their circumstances changed and they were forced to rely on benefits. Ms Reay, a former care worker, had to give up her job in 2016 due to a number of serious health conditions.

Unable to work

The mum-of-one, who has a son, Adam Calder, 25, was diagnosed with a blood clotting disorder, a lung condition called COPD, and fibromyalgia, a long-term nerve condition which causes chronic pain. Mr Reay, who she described as having “the biggest heart you could imagine” had been a truck driver for 35 years but gave it up so he could be her carer before he underwent cancer treatment.

The couple had been receiving £1,350 a month in benefits, comprising income support and carer’s allowances until David passed away in April 2018. The next day the payments were suddenly stopped and Hayley was told she would have to apply for Universal Credit instead.

Her Personal Independence Payment, a new benefit which replaced the Disability Living Allowance (DLA), was also halted and she was informed that her housing benefit would be reduced because she now had one less person in the property, so technically had a ‘spare’ bedroom for which a tax would be applied.

With just £140 in the bank and no savings at all, it left the devastated widow with nothing to live off while she waited five weeks for her first Universal Credit payment to come through. And with a husband to bury, she had no choice but to take out a credit card to cover the cost of his funeral, as well as her rent and bills for almost two months.

“I could have had a pauper’s funeral but that wasn’t something I could face,” Hayley explained. “David needed to be brought home and have a proper funeral and there was no other way of getting the costs down.”
In debt

Although she was eventually given a Funeral Expenses Payment of £1,600 by the Department for Work and Pensions, then a £2,500 bereavement payment to survive on as she waited for her Universal Credit to be processed, the funeral alone cost £4,000 and her rent was £400 a month. With bills, food and travel costs on top, it wasn’t enough and she ended up £5,000 in debt.

Unable to pay it off, she had to take out a debt relief order (DRO) to cancel out the money she owed. But, as the order affects her credit score for six years, it means she will struggle to borrow any money or move home in the near future.

Hayley now receives £317 a month in Universal Credit and £350 a month towards her rent, £433 a month less than she received with David when he was alive. It leaves her with just £66.75 a week to cover food and bills.

It was only recently that she learned that she could also get a top-up of £300 a month because of her disabilities, after turning to Citizens Advice for help.

She said her situation had left her ‘extremely anxious’ about the future, adding: “I worry that if a large bill came or something broke, like my oven, there isn’t any spare money to buy things like that.

“Dave would have been absolutely devastated at what they’ve put me through.”

After posting about her plight on Facebook soon after David’s death, members of the public reached out to Hayley, offering to donate money to help her. But she decided to use the funds to help others in need instead, after seeing a BBC news report about the number of people now having to rely on food banks.
Helping hand

Hayley has now set up a Facebook page to raise money for the nine food banks in Hartlepool that have been helping desperate families hit by recent benefit changes in the area.

A target of £1,000 was set and in just over a week, more than £600 has already been raised.

“My husband would have been the first one to be donating,” she said. “Just last Christmas he was putting food in the food bank trolley. So this fundraiser is in his memory.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “When a person dies it can be incredibly upsetting and difficult. A person’s claim to benefits ends when they die, and this can sometimes leave their partner without any financial support.

“Jobcentre staff set people up with their own claim as quickly as possible, to ensure they are receiving payments.

“They can also signpost to counselling and support services, remove requirements to look for work, set up Bereavement Benefits and help with the cost of the funeral.”

8000 disabled people die within 6 months of being refused PIP.
Almost half of those people die within 3 months of being refused.

When 72% win PIP on appeal does that mean the 28% who didn’t win die?

Capita should be sacked.