Ottery councillor launches support group to help those affected by DWP benefit issues

PUBLISHED: 16:16 10 August 2018 | UPDATED: 16:16 10 August 2018

Claire Wright is standing for elections in the Otter Valley.

Claire Wright is standing for elections in the Otter Valley.

Archant

Residents who have had their benefits affected by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) are being urged to not suffer in silence by joining a support group. Devon County Councillor Claire Wright told Ottery Town Council on Monday night that she had been ‘inundated’ with calls from people across the district who have had their payments stopped.

She has now set up a support group meeting,later this month, for people to meet and speak to representatives, including the Citizens Advice Bureau.

Cllr Wright told the meeting: “I have been contacted by a number of people in the town who are really struggling because the DWP are just being awful about benefits.

“For example they might be on working tax credits and they are relying on that completely.

“Their income, to the tiniest penny, is balanced on this benefit, that they are receiving, and then suddenly the DWP is saying ‘I’m sorry we have overpaid you, you’re not going to get any money’.

“They are then left high and dry, they have to use a food bank, they can’t pay their rent or their mortgage and have to borrow money and it is awful, it is not unusual and it is happening quite widely.

“I think what is happening is such a humiliating experience, being completely poverty stricken and they do not tell anybody and they suffer in silence. They do not sleep at night, they get stressed, they get depressed and some people are suicidal.

“At the very least people need to talk to each other and support each other and feel they are not alone.”

The Herald contacted the DWP where a spokesman said face-to-face guidance is available as well as support workers who make the claim on their behalf.

The spokesman said: ““We continue to spend £90 billion a year on welfare to support those who need it most and are committed to ensuring everyone gets the benefits they are entitled to.

“Support is available for people who need it, including face to face guidance. For anyone unable to manage their own affairs, support workers or appointees can make a claim on their behalf.”

East Devon MP Sir Hugo Swire also added those affected should contact him and he will treat any problem ‘as a priority’.

He added: “Anyone who lives in my East Devon constituency who is having issues with the Department for Work and Pensions should raise it with me as their local MP, who will treat any problem as a priority.

“MPs have access to dedicated DWP hotlines for us to discuss constituents’ cases and my office has an extremely good track record of ensuring that if someone is entitled to payments, they shall receive them. It is nothing to do with local government.”

Anyone affected by Department of Work and Pensions issues and would like to attend the meeting should contact Cllr Wright by emailing claire@claire-wright.org or by calling 01404 813387.

To contact the DWP customers can get in touch regarding their benefits by telephoning 0800 328 9344,

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