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Benefit blunder apology to evicted Pulborough family

JPCT 030614 S14230593x Pulborough. Michelle Johnston says HDC have made a mistake and it will result in the family losing their flat Michelle with partner Leo and son Josh -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-140306-162424001

JPCT 030614 S14230593x Pulborough. Michelle Johnston says HDC have made a mistake and it will result in the family losing their flat Michelle with partner Leo and son Josh -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-140306-162424001

A housing benefit service said the district council ‘may have made incorrect judgements’ on a housing benefit claim resulting in a Pulborough family’s eviction.

Mum Michelle Johnston, 23, said the apology from CenSus (a benefit service which works in conjunction with Horsham District Council) for the delay in her housing benefit payment ‘does not fix’ the problems it has caused her family as they hunt for a new home.

The letter was sent to Miss Johnston after the County Times published the mother’s plight last week.

In May, Miss Johnston did not receive her monthly housing benefit, upon contacting Horsham District Council (HDC) she was informed that her benefits were being placed on hold for an investigation by CenSus.

This week, CenSus sent a letter to Miss Johnston admitting that there was confusion amid her previous claim and reference number, which led to a mistake in payments.

In the letter, CenSus benefits manager Morag Freitas, stated that ‘such errors are fortunately rare’ and that her case will be ‘highlighted to assessment teams to learn from.’

Mrs Freitas wrote: “Please accept this as an official written apology for the way in which your claim has been handled.

“We accept that you have not been fully informed of the correct circumstances relating to your claim and that there have been instances of avoidable delays in your claim.

“I will ensure that your case will be highlighted to the assessment teams to learn from and used as an aide for further training.”

This comes as little comfort to Miss Johnston whose partner Leo Nas, 23, and four-year-old son Joshua must now find another home after they were given notice of their eviction following the late payment.

Miss Johnston said: “Although the apology is meant with good intentions and I’m very grateful that housing benefit have finally taken responsibility for their errors, it still doesn’t compensate the damage they caused and doesn’t fix that I still have to find alternative accommodation.

“A letter does not rectify the stress and anxiety caused by the errors, and nor does it help me find an alternative home for my family.”

Although HDC has now made the payment, the eviction could not be resolved.

Mr Nas currently works as a mechanic in Pulborough but does not earn enough income to pay the entire rent. Michelle has now found employment so they can come off benefits.

 

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