Bereaved family in trauma over bills
PUBLISHED: 06:23 21 November 2011
»A grieving daughter has been left incensed after the council started trying to recoup her late father’s benefits within days of his sudden death.
Islington Council billed Jane Missin £133 for the housing benefit given to her 71-year-old dad Brian Cunningham to cover the week after he passed away on Friday, November 4. It was swiftly followed by a £471 bill for council tax and a demand for full rent on the home in Elphinstone Street, Highbury, after November 13 until it is given back to the council.
Mrs Missin and her three siblings went through a similar ordeal last year when their mother Kay died suddenly. Mr Cunningham received 27 different letters demanding hundreds of pounds he didn’t have due to the changes in benefit entitlement as a single person.
The family took it up with the council and were promised that procedures would change to spare other bereaved relatives a similar nightmare.
But the Monday following her dad’s death, Mrs Missin received a letter which she said gave condolences for her loss before demanding the cash.
The family were also given until Sunday to clear out the property before becoming liable for the full rent of £145 a week.
Mrs Missin, 43, said: “The house is 35 years of memories and paperwork. I grew up in Islington and have fond memories of the house. You don’t want to be sifting through somebody’s personal belongings before their funeral. I’m already angry and upset that my dad has died and I don’t want to be focusing on this as well.
“Apart from the stress – and I have been exceptionally stressed out and upset about this – it makes me makes me lose faith in human nature.”
Mrs Missin said the council had sent flowers to say sorry. She added: “They are apologetic and embarrassed but I don’t think it is good enough.
“They’ve said don’t worry about the rent for the time being but funerals cost thousands of pounds and if I am going to get a bill three weeks after for £600, I just can’t forget about it. I’m not a rich person and to say don’t worry about it for now is inadequate.”
Cllr Richard Greening, Islington Council’s executive member for finance, said: “This must have been very distressing, and I sincerely apologise.
“We have cleared the overpaid benefit and have given the family assurances no more letters will be sent. We’re also checking internally exactly want went wrong here so it doesn’t happen again.
“The law requires we issue a letter when housing benefit is ended.
“In this case we failed to flag this up as a bereavement and the wrong letter was issued.”
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