Bittersweet victory for Windrush tenant
A Midland Heart tenant, one of the so-called Windrush Generation, has finally had an entire £100,000 ‘debt’ written off after a lengthy battle with government departments to prove he has a right to live in the UK.
Throughout his three year ordeal, Neville has been supported and encouraged by Tracey Chisholm, Money Advice Team Manager.
”He is utterly relieved that his debt has been quashed but quite angry he has been through so much,” says Tracey. “Although his benefits have all been put back into place, it does not alter the fact he was accused of fraud and told he had no right to be in a country he has known as his home for over 60 years.”
The nightmare began in 2016 when Neville applied for a passport, only to be told he had to prove he officially existed and had a right to live in the UK. An investigation by the Department of Work and Pensions followed, resulting in a fraud team going to his Birmingham home, letters threatening bailiff action and his benefits being cancelled and backdated 12 years, leaving him owing almost £100,000.
He quickly fell behind on his rent payments but, says Tracey, “Neville’s story was far, far bigger than having rent arrears. So we took his case on.”
This included Midland Heart arranging legal advice from a solicitor specialising in immigration cases, offering pre-paid cards towards fuel bills, providing food and Tracey spending many hours on the phone to numerous government departments and agencies to gather evidence.
“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,” says Neville, who was among thousands of immigrants invited to the UK between 1948 and 1971 from Caribbean countries.
The bureaucratic red tape unravelled very slowly. Last July the Home Office granted Neville a Certificate of Naturalisation that proves entitlement to live in the UK and towards the end of the year he was notified he did not have to repay £47,000 in pension credit.
Says Tracey: “It’s been a challenging case to work on, and hugely stressful for Neville; I cannot imagine coping with such a dilemma at the age of 76.
“However, I was 100 per cent confident we would be successful. It has taken a long time and a lot of work but his housing benefit, council tax support and pension credit have all been backdated to 2004. He has a passport and all is good. In total around £100k worth of benefits have been put back into payment.”
*The name of our tenant has been changed to protect his identity.