Winning the Windrush battle
Our Money Advice Team are slowly but surely winning a Windrush battle to help one of our older customer clear his name and almost £100,000 in “debts.”
Seventy-five-year-old Neville can look forward to a brighter 2019 after being told by the Department of Work and Pensions that he does not have to repay £47,000 in pension credit.
Money Advice Team Manager Tracey Chisholm, who has been supporting Neville for more than two years, is confident the outstanding amount for council tax and benefits will also be wiped clean.
“I am 100 per cent confident that will happen but everything takes time,” she said.
Neville’s nightmare began in 2016 after an application for a passport sparked off an investigation by the DWP, resulting in a fraud team visiting his home in Birmingham, letters threatening bailiff action and his pension and benefits being cancelled and backdated 12 years, leaving him owing almost £100,000.
“When I was told I had to prove I existed or pay back all this money - money I didn’t have, had no hope of having - I cried,” said Neville who, left with just £50 a week to live on, quickly racked up rent arrears of over £2,000 with Midland Heart.
Tracey delved into Neville’s background, discovering he was among thousands of immigrants known as the Windrush generation invited to the UK between 1948 and 1971 from Caribbean countries.
He came to England from Jamaica in 1959 aged 16 to join his mother who was already working here. He attempted to continue his education but encountered racism on his first day at school and never returned, so got a job in a factory.
“His story was far, far bigger than having rent arrears,” said Tracey. “So we took his case on. We arranged for him to have legal advice from a solicitor in Coventry specialising in immigration matters – and when he couldn’t afford the train ticket, we bought it.
“We helped out too with pre-paid cards towards his electricity and gas bills and as he grew thinner and thinner we bought food.”
Tracey spent many hours on the phone to numerous Government departments and other agencies to gather the evidence Neville needed to prove he had a right to live in the UK.
“It was challenging because his original passport had been lost. He had a UK driving license that he had used to confirm his identity without a problem but he hadn’t worked consistently so his HMRC employment records were sketchy. He had two National Insurance numbers which confused matters, but luckily, his GP was supportive and we were able to get his NHS number confirmed. It was a long and difficult journey and hugely stressful for him.”
Eventually, in June 2018, the Home Office granted a Certificate of Naturalisation, the all-important document that proves entitlement to live in the UK.
Neville said of his experience: “I don’t have the words to describe what Tracey and Midland Heart have done for me. I am more than grateful.”