At the beginning of last summer I was on my knees.
I went to the CAB for a food parcel, I couldn’t cope any longer. I had borrowed all I could. I was humiliated and depressed. I had been given a criminal conviction for benefit fraud and a demand for over £4,000 to pay back Pension Credit. They said I had not claimed properly. My eyesight had become so poor I could not read. I could not sort this problem out by myself.
The CAB got them to admit I only owed £155. They were wrong and I should not have been prosecuted. They should not have stopped my Pension Credit income for a year and five months. The CAB sorted out my income and helped me put in a complaint. Then, they chased it round and round through the MP’s office, the Independent Case Examiner, the Ombudman’s office. For months, we got nowhere. It was impossible to reach the Pension Credit staff by phone and we got no letters back or told that I was not following the correct complaints channel. Last month, I heard my complaint had been rejected. Citizens Advice wrote back to say this was not good enough as there was no explanation behind the decision and the complaint had not been properly considered .
Today we heard the Pensions Credit office has changed its mind. They have given me almost £5,000 arrears with which I will be able to get myself out of debt. After three difficult years, I’m so relieved, I feel like a new person.
I only got £50 as a consolatory payment however. The CAB is continuing to work with me to clear my name and now I am confident we will achieve this. I want to give my warmest thanks to Katy, Christian, Anne and the team at the Citizens Advice Bureau in Clitheroe. I could not have come so far without their support. I want to give them a donation but the Citizens Advice manager says the money is for my needs. So all I can do is say THANK YOU and say to the CAB: “I wholeheartedly want to thank you for what you have done for me. I know as a result of your help you and your team were able to sort out the problem with the pensions people.”
I feel very strongly that people need legal help to get justice. My experience tells me without the work of the CAB I would have been fobbed off and I am angry that the Department of Work and Pensions tried to frighten me to drop the case.
From a Ribble Valley resident (Clayton le Dale with Ramsgreave ward)