DWP apology to mentally-ill Leicester man after abandoned attempt to recover disputed 2006 debt

The Department of Work and Pensions has apologised to a mentally-ill Leicester man after pursuing him for loans he insists he never took.

Geoffrey Thomas has been involved in a six month battle with officials over a disputed crisis loans totalling £400 they say he took out in 2005 and 2006 to buy furniture

The 46-year-old from Aylestone received a letter in January telling him £8.43 a week would be deducted from his benefits.

Mr Thomas, who suffers from anxiety, depression and personality disorder, says a mistake has been made and believes he has been mixed up with someone else.

However a payment was taken from his benefits before Leicester South MP Jon Ashworth intervened and the money was returned to Mr Thomas while the matter was resolved.

Mr Thomas asked for documents to be produced proving he took the loans and the DWP consequently abandoned attempts to get back £280 of the disputed sum.

It has now written to him to saying it will not seek repayment of the remaining £120, apologising and inviting him to seek compensation.

Mr Thomas said: “I am pleased they have backed down but they are still saying I owe it and I really don’t.

“If I owe anything I pay it back. At Christmas I was overpaid in benefits and I returned that but these crisis loans, I never took them.

“It hasn’t helped my mental health I am a bit fragile and this has made me much more worried. I’ve lost a lot of sleep over that last few months because I knew what was happening wasn’t right.

“I dug my heels because they made a mistake but if this can happen to me it could happen to others. I’m worried that other people might just accept they owe money whey they don’t and end up paying back money they do not owe.”

Mr Thomas said he would be seeking compensation.

Mr Ashworth said: “”It was clear from the beginning that there were concerns over the recovery of the three Social Fund Loans.

“Given the limited income Geoffrey has I was pleased that I was able to get the deductions from his benefit suspended while the DWP were looking at the loans.

“At first the DWP were insisting on recovering payment but then abandoned collection for payment of two of them and decided not to pursue recovery of the third.”

“Although there are still questions as to whether one of the loans was ever made, it is clear that the DWP was not in a position to legally seek recovery.

“It is worrying that such errors may also been made for other people who have repaid loans that they insist they did not have. Slashing the budgets of government departments clearly impacts on the ability of the department, like the DWP, to ensure its record keeping is accurate.”

Mr Thomas was also helped by his ward councillor Nigel Porter who said: “Geoffrey says he didn’t have the loans but in any case these alleged loans are almost a decade old and I thought loans older than six years are statute barred anyway.

“Why did they wait ten years? It just seems unfair.

“It worries me that other vulnerable people are finding themselves in Geoffrey’s situation.”

The above article is from leicestermercury.co.uk. Find the original here.

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