Hainault family ordered to pay back £48k in overpaid benefits for disabled son
PUBLISHED: 17:00 26 June 2019
A family have been ordered to pay back nearly £50,000 to the government because the council "didn't spot" they were applying for the wrong benefits for their disabled son for 12 years.
Redbridge Council denies it is at fault.
The council agreed to pay for the care of Robert Goldstein, 35, in 2002 by housing him at Cleveland House in South Woodford - a care home for people with severe learning difficulties.
Robert has a rare chromosome abnormality which causes development delays and in August 2000 the Recorder reported that his parents, Martin and Sharon, threatened legal action against the council after he was left waiting for 15 months for a carer.
Robert was entitled for 19 hours of care each week at the time, but he was only receiving two hours care from a teacher at one of his schools and another seven hours a week from a temporary carer provided by the council.
They say that to settle the matter, the council agreed to pay for Robert's care and set up his benefits.
But in February this year Martin, 62, and Sharon, 64, were issued with a bill for £48,560.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said the family had been incorrectly paid a benefit which is for those living at home.
The family, who have lived in Hainault for 43 years, have questioned how Redbridge Council missed the fact Robert was no longer living at home - particularly when the council was paying for the care.
"Redbridge Council set up all the benefits Robert receives and said we didn't have to do anything," Martin said.
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"The circumstances have never changed."
Martin said they fill out the forms, send them to the council and then they work out how much needs to be paid and how much Robert needs to contribute.
He said: "If we have been overpaid our benefits, then we have overpaid Redbridge for Robert's accommodation.
"How did nobody spot this? This is what they get paid to do. They are the professionals."
Since the couple received the bill, which they believe the council should pay, they say they have both been prescribed anti-depressants and referred for counselling.
"We've just been left on our own," Martin said. "It's not every day someone sends you a bill for £48,000. I feel so angry, upset and frustrated. I feel like we aren't being taken seriously and no one will give me any answers."
But a council spokesman said it is for the family to inform DWP of changes in circumstances, not the council.
He said: "Whilst we appreciate the very real concern and difficulty this must be causing, we firmly believe the responsibility for this situation does not rest with the council.
"The council played no part in applications for benefits and unfortunately no breakdown has ever been provided of the allowances to cause us concern they may have been overpaying."
He added: "We will be writing to the family shortly to explain the outcome of our investigation and will be offering to support them in any way we can in their discussions with the DWP."
A DWP spokesman said: "Appointees are responsible for reporting any changes of circumstances, including admission to a care home - and any communications about their benefits make this clear to them."