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Housing Benefit/Son Joining Forces - Where to Turn?(5 Posts)
I want to start by saying that I am not a parent, I am a son but I write on behalf of my mum. I've turned to Mumsnet in the hope that I can gain some help and advice that certainly doesn't seem to be freely or easily available, everywhere I turn, I just seem to hit a brick wall. I hope nobody minds that this is not written by a mother but please know it is certainly written in the best interests of a loving mum, to two boys.
My mum is in her early 50s and suffers with a number of significant mental health problems which have prevented her from working for almost 6 years now. Her mental health problems have been officially diagnosed and historically she has been receiving the state benefit and financial support that she is entitled too. This is now under threat due to the changes to the welfare system and the arrival of the somewhat ridiculous ATOS assessment process, however that is not my reason for writing today.
Last summer, my 16 year old brother made the decision to join the Marines when he left school that year. My brother is my mum's youngest and he and my mum lived together as I have now flown the nest and unfortunately she is separated from his father. His decision to join the Marines caused a huge amount of emotional unrest and turmoil for my mum, not only in the way you would expect for any parent that was experiencing the prospect of their son or daughter, leaving home and joining the forces but also because of the special situation she finds herself in. My mum's mental health problems meant that she was reliant on my brother more than most mums would be a 16 year old, he was the man of the house essentially and would provide her with practical assistance, day to day, as well as the love and support of a any young son. By him flying the nest, my mum was losing stability, support, security and more, as well as facing the prospect of her loving son eventually being sent to a war zone. As well as losing all this my mum also had to face up to the fact that her financial support may be reduced on the basis that my brother was leaving home and in some senses would no longer require feeding, clothing, etc. Even though logic says that she should be better off financially with this change in circumstance, the reality was that she was already struggling to get by and it actually stood to get a lot worse if reduced. Anyone that has received means tested benefit will know that it is not necessarily a fair reflection of outgoings, etc.
This is where the problems start and I why I write today. In order to ease my mum's worries, I made a call to her local council last year, speaking to the housing benefits team and enquiring whether her housing benefit would be reduced as a result of my brother joining the forces. I was informed in no uncertain terms that as my brother was only 16, this was a special situation that meant her benefit would not change until he was 18. Even though he was joining the forces, at 16 he was still classed as being a dependent of my mum, he would be returning to her house on leave and he would remain on the electoral register in the area in which he had always lived, not where he was doing his training.
On receiving this information, I relayed this to my mum and instructed her that no further action needed to be taken. We were somewhat relieved and moved on to the many other issues that had been created by my brother's leaving such as how she would help him to purchase his training kit and other more serious notions like her in-comings and outgoings, practical maintenance around the house and her day to day well-being.
Unfortunately, I did not ask for the information that was supplied to me in that phone call to the council to be provided in writing, nor did I record the name of the person I spoke to. This may sound naive on my behalf but I have no experience of dealing with these sorts of issues, I was merely trying to help my mum, instinctively, as a son would, As soon as I had the info, I moved on to helping her with the next thing.
6 months on and the goalposts have been moved, the local council have now decided that my mum has been overpaid in housing benefit as a result of my brother joining the forces. She has been informed that she will have to pay back the total of which she has been overpaid, something which she simply cannot afford to do, her housing benefit has been stopped completely while it is reviewed. This has put her in arrears with her landlord, who is now considering taking action to serve notice. She would effectively be on the streets if this comes to fruition. The emotional impact that this is having is catastrophic and is heightened significantly for someone with serious mental health problems.
I made that call to the council last year, I was given info that confirmed that we did not need to do anything. Without, the name of the person I spoke to or any written record, as far as the council are concerned, the phone call never took place. They are refusing to speak to me as they say it is in conflict with Data Protection, all I want to do is put my point across. My mum is being punished for their inadequacies and poor communication. This is so unfair and I just don't know where to turn, can anyone help?
I'm sorry for such a long thread, I just wanted to present the full picture. Thank you very much for taking the time to read, any help or comments would be sincerely appreciated.
I'd ask HQ to move this to chat.
Your brother must have been desperate to leave home.
The Chat topic. Or repost it in Chat yourself. More traffic.
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