A 76-year-old 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 who believed he didn’t officially exist.
Throughout his three-year ordeal, the tenant – who is not being named – has been supported and encouraged by Tracey Chisholm, Money Advice Team Manager with Midland Heart.
”He is utterly relieved that his debt has been quashed but quite angry he has been through so much,” said Chisholm.
“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,” she said.
The ordeal began in 2016 when the tenant applied for a passport, only to be told he had to prove he officially existed and had a right to live in the UK.
A DWP investigation followed, resulting in a fraud team going to the tenant’s Birmingham home, letters threatening bailiff action, and his benefits being cancelled and backdated 12 years – leaving him owing almost £100,000.
The tenant fast fell behind on his rent payments but, says Chisholm, the story amounts to much more – so Midland Heart took the case on.
This included arranging legal advice from a solicitor specialising in immigration cases, offering pre-paid cards toward fuel bills, providing food, and Chisholm 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 the tenant, who was among thousands of immigrants invited to the UK between 1948 and 1971 from Caribbean countries.
Last July, the Home Office granted Neville a Certificate of Naturalisation that proves entitlement to live in the UK.
Toward the end of the year, he was notified he did not have to repay £47,000 in pension credit.
“It’s been a challenging case to work on, and hugely stressful for [the tenant]. I cannot imagine coping with such a dilemma at the age of 76,” said Chisholm.
“However, I was 100% 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 £100,000 worth of benefits have been put back into payment,” she said.