A Lanarkshire gran has turned suicidal after he was wrongly given a nearly £20,000 debt claim from the Department for Work and Pensions.
Christina Goss was told she was not entitled to claim the benefit despite being considered a long-term illness due to her severe memory loss and depression.
The 62-year-old successfully applied for state assistance after being deemed to have “limited capacity for work-related activities” and was approved in January 2020 without issue.
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But in September 2021 she was contacted by the DWP who said she had not provided them with a rental agreement from her landlord – although she was never asked for due to ongoing coronavirus restrictions .
She was told her benefits had to be stopped and she had to repay £19,900 which they said she was not entitled to.
Christina, a grandmother of four, was prevented from taking a fatal overdose by her ex-husband Neil Cairns who managed to break into her East Kilbride home.
The error was eventually rectified but benefits chiefs failed to notify South Lanarkshire Council (SLC) who then began pursuing 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 ordeal of debt has made it difficult for them to grieve properly.
After the intervention of our sister newspaper, today’s newspaperthe DWP confirmed their mistake with SLC also closing their case against Christina.
The former carer said: ‘I have always worked hard throughout my life and tried to give back as much as possible.
“It’s hard enough having to accept help from Universal Credit in the first place. I was so shocked at the way I was treated. It was just pure, utter hell.
“It’s a disgusting way to treat people. Going through this was a nightmare and I hate to think of how many other people are in the same situation.
“I’ve always had a bad memory but now they tell me I have the onset of dementia. I’m so grateful to have Neil and can’t thank the Daily Record enough for his help.
Neil, 70, adds: “Christina has been the victim of incompetence by people who don’t know what they are doing. They don’t care about anyone’s feelings.
“They have 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 apartment sitting with a bunch of pills waiting to take them.
“Fortunately I have a set of keys to his apartment and was able to come in and arrest him because I promised our daughter that I would take care of her mother.
“We haven’t been able to mourn properly because of everything that’s going on in the background. Christina was out of breath and she didn’t know where to turn.
“I fought tooth and nail for her, but it felt like we were banging our heads against a brick wall.”
Christina moved into an apartment in August 2020 and continued to receive Universal Credit without issue until September of the following year.
She was told she had not provided the DWP with a rental agreement from her landlord, although she was never asked.
A notice was posted saying she owed the benefits agency £19,900 and should be reimbursed, triggering her suicide attempt.
After the situation was finally rectified, Neil and Christina assumed everything had been worked out, but received another blow in December when his performances were again cancelled.
She was wrongly accused of not completing a to-do list months earlier and told to submit a new request.
As a result, SLC was informed that it was not entitled to any council tax reduction.
Neil explained: “Christina called me one day in a good state and said she had tried to buy her messages but her card had been declined.
“It turns out that SLC had lodged a claim in her bank account for unpaid council tax after being wrongly told by the DWP that she was not entitled to any benefits.
“We managed to get this canceled at the bank. The council tried again, so we contacted them to find out what was going on.
“Universal Credit told them that Christina was not entitled to any tax relief. So it all started again.
“I called last Friday and thought we were making progress after sending Christina’s Universal Credit proof.
“We asked them to call them at Universal Credit but they said no, they had to call them. “So we contacted Universal Credit, but they said they wouldn’t contact the board. So we stayed in limbo.
“They said she would have to repay the amount that had been discounted since September 2019 or be sent to a debt collector.
“That’s when we contacted the Daily Record.”
A DWP spokesperson apologized for the upset and canceled the debt.
They said: ‘We are incredibly sorry for the distress caused to Ms Goss.
“We have canceled his refund and are working with SLC to resolve his council tax issue.”
A spokesperson for SLC added: “We fully appreciate Ms Goss’ concern about the situation she has found herself in.
“The council acted in good faith on the information provided by the DWP. As soon as we were informed that there might be an error, we worked with the DWP to rectify the situation.
“We are pleased to confirm that the situation has been resolved and Ms. Goss’s account has been updated.”
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