Hunstanton couple left without benefits for months

Problems with DWP. Clare Ding without benefit since August. Pictured Claire Ding with her husband Adrian  at their Hunstanton home.
Problems with DWP. Clare Ding without benefit since August. Pictured Claire Ding with her husband Adrian at their Hunstanton home.

A couple from Hunstanton are struggling to put food on their table after the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) cancelled all their benefits.

Clare and Adrian Ding say they are “living an actual nightmare” following the DWP’s decision to cancel their Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Mr Ding’s Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) benefits in August.

In 2016, Mrs Ding claims she appealed a decision made by the DWP after making a change to her circumstances, and was told at a tribunal hearing in Lynn that her award period was going to be shortened from August 2018 to April this year.

But, when Mrs Ding inquired about her situation six months ago she says she was told by a representative from the DWP that “nothing was showing on their system” in regards to her tribunal hearing.

She said: “I was told that as they misplaced the judge’s decision and filed it incorrectly, they were going to cancel my claim immediately, back date the claim to the April 30, and send the claim to overpayments who will decide and then contact me.

“They were going to force me to make a new claim as they should have started the renewal process immediately after the judge’s decision back in 2016 but, as no one had even looked into my claim since before it went to the tribunal they are cancelling my claim.”

The couple both suffer with mental health problems and Mrs Ding said the situation has: “led to her contemplating suicide on several occasions”.

Since August, when they say their benefits were cancelled, the couple has been relying on foodbanks, the benefit advice teams and friends to get them by, but say they fear their reliance on neighbours could soon break down friendships.

She added: “We’re still living in this nightmare and feel as though there is no light at the end of the tunnel.”

A spokesperson from the DWP said Mrs Dings’ award period was due to end on April 30 and to renew her claim she would have had to call within the same month, opposed to when she actually called on May 8.

West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham said: “There’s a critical issue regarding overpayment. It wasn’t her fault. I think it was incompetence on the part of the DWP and they shouldn’t try to recoup it.

“I think they are a genuine case and when the DWP makes an error, there is no question that any money should not be reclaimed. What is incumbent on them is to work hard to make sure any further application is processed as quickly as possible.”