Home U.K Botched Universal Credit £19k debt demand leaves grieving gran suicidal

Botched Universal Credit £19k debt demand leaves grieving gran suicidal


Christina Goss, 62, was initially told she was not entitled to claim Universal Credit despite being classed as long-term sick due to her severe memory loss and depression. She then made a successful application for the benefit after being deemed to have “limited capacity for work-related activities” and was approved in January 2020 without issue.

But in September last year, the grandmother was contacted by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) which said she had failed to provide them with a tenancy agreement from her landlord – despite never being asked for this due to ongoing coronavirus restrictions.

She was told her benefits were to be stopped and she was to pay back £19,900 to which they said she was not entitled.

Christina, who has four grandchildren, was prevented from taking a fatal overdose by ex-husband Neil Cairns, who managed to force his way into her home in East Kilbride, Scotland.

The error was eventually rectified, however benefit chiefs failed to inform South Lanarkshire Council, which then also began chasing the grieving mother for money last month.

Christina and Neil, who lost their 39-year-old daughter to cancer in January, say the stress of the debt ordeal has prevented them from grieving properly.

After intervention by the Daily Record this month, the DWP has confirmed its error, with South Lanarkshire Council also closing its case against Christina.

Christina, a former carer, said: “I’ve always worked throughout my life and have tried to give back as much as I can.

“It’s hard enough having to accept the help from Universal Credit in the first place. I was so shocked at how I was treated. It was just absolute pure hell.

“It’s a disgusting way to treat people. Going through this has been a nightmare and I hate to think how many other people are in the same position.

“I’ve always had a bad memory but now I’ve been told that I’ve got the start of dementia. I’m so grateful that I’ve got Neil.”

Neil, 70, said: “Christina was the victim of incompetence by people who don’t know what they’re doing. They don’t take anyone’s feelings into consideration.

“They’ve got tunnel vision. They see where they want to go and they will do whatever they have to do to get there. I found her in her flat sitting with a pile of pills waiting to take them.

“Thankfully I have a set of keys to her flat and was able to get in and stop her because I promised our daughter that I’d look after her mum.

“We haven’t been able to grieve properly because of all this going on in the background. Christina was at the end of her tether and she didn’t know where to turn.

“I’ve been fighting tooth and nail for her but it felt like we were just banging our heads against a brick wall.”

A spokesperson for the DWP apologised for the upset caused and have confirmed that they have cancelled the debt.

They said: “We are incredibly sorry for the distress caused to Ms Goss.

“We have cancelled her repayment to us and are working with South Lanarkshire Council to resolve the issue with her council tax.”

A spokesperson for South Lanarkshire Council said: “We fully appreciate Ms Goss’s concern about the situation she has found herself in.

“The council acted in good faith on information supplied by the DWP. As soon as we were informed that there may be an error involved, we worked with the DWP to rectify the situation.

“We are pleased to confirm the situation has been resolved and Ms Goss’s account has been brought up to date.”

If you are struggling and have suicidal thoughts, know you are not alone and that help is available. Please contact any one of the following. In the UK, you can call the Samaritans free on 116 123 (the number will not appear on your telephone bill) or email [email protected] In America, The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a network of more than 160 crisis centres that provide a 24-hour-a-day service via a free hotline on 00-1-800-273-8255. Lifeline is a national charity providing all Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services. Call 13-11-14. Help is ALWAYS available. If you need it, reach out.

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