Sussex couple ‘forced to pay back Universal Credit advance they did not want nor receive’

A Sussex couple claimed they are being forced to pay off a ‘fraudulent’ benefits loan they never asked for nor received.

Monday, 16th March 2020, 10:37 am

Robert and Diane Young said their benefits were cut after being moved to Universal Credit last year.

But now, they only get £38 a month because of the repayments – pushing them to the brink of homelessness, they said.

Robert, 59, from Riverside, Littlehampton, said: “It is destroying us.

Robert and Diane Young. Photo by Derek Martin Photography

“They are discrediting me and making me feel as though I am a criminal.”

Robert worked for 20 years as an electrical, buildings and maintenance manager at Ford Prison before retiring due to ill health.

He said a court ruled he could be entitled to the maximum raft of benefits payments.

He is now registered disabled due to his ailments, which include numbness in his feet and legs and heart issues, he claimed. Diane, 48, is his carer.

Robert and Diane Young. Photo by Derek Martin Photography

In July, they were moved over to Universal Credit – a controversial scheme to replace six other benefits payments which has left some people penniless for weeks before the first payment.

During a couple of visits to Jobcentre Plus in Church Street, Littlehampton, they were offered an advance to tide them over, which they said they declined.

But on September 14, Diane received a letter saying she had taken out the advance, worth £1,525.44, and the debt would be deducted from their benefits each month, leaving them with £38.

The dinner lady said: “I feel like I was framed for something I did not do.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said they were ‘investigating this issue urgently’ – but the couple said the repayments were still being deducted.

Despite reporting the incident to the police and getting MP Nick Gibb involved, they said nothing has been done.

And when Robert went to Citizens Advice, staff told him to visit a food bank.

Robert said the affair had put an enormous strain on the family, leading her 12-year-old daughter to get counselling.

As his pension barely covered their mortgage and Diane only worked two hours a day, he said they could not make ends meet.

He said: “I’m losing and losing and losing. Eventually we will lose the house. We can’t keep this up.”