A Universal Credit claimant has been left begging for food and having to rummage through bins to feed himself after a blunder by benefit officials left him with just £16 a month to live on.
David George Strong, 54, has been left unable to work due to Epilepsy and is now having to repay a Housing Benefit overpayment debt out of his monthly Universal Credit payments, even though the error was not of his causing.
It turns out that Brent Council and the DWP had been “doubling up” Housing Benefit payments under the old system. This was only discovered after David began claiming Universal Credit.
This has resulted in substantial deductions to his monthly Universal Credit award and David has been threatened with a County Court summons if he fails to repay more than £2,000.
The DWP is also taking £1,200 from Mr Strong’s monthly Universal Credit award and handing it directly to Brent Council for housing costs.
“I don’t know where to turn,” he told the local press. “At first I was told I’d get £11 a month; now it’s £16 but not until August. How can I live off that?”
“Sometimes people buy me a little bit of food, but I’m surviving on scraps”, he added.
David continued: “If you go down to the Iceland late at night they sometimes there’s stuff by the bins [sic] in the car park.
“I’ve just got to go out and go out so I can possibly get enough to eat.
“When I was on the phone to them [the DWP], all they said is: ‘Go to a food bank.'”
The total value of Mr Strong’s monthly Universal Credit award has not been reported.
A DWP spokesperson told the Kilburn Times: “There are numerous safeguards in place to ensure deductions from Universal Credit are affordable.
“People can speak to their work coach if they need additional support.”
A spokesperson for Brent Council said: “We’re sorry to hear about Mr Strong’s situation and have contacted the DWP as we are concerned about what he has said about his circumstances.
“We can confirm that he does not owe the council any money.
“We provided financial assistance when Mr Strong moved onto Universal Credit earlier in the year and will work with him to see if there’s anything else we can do.
“Sadly, the roll out of Universal Credit is causing difficulties for our residents and we will offer any help we are able to.”