Ealing Council Mistake 'Killed My Father'

Family of pensioner say he died from stress after receiving huge repayment demands

Peter Plumb


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Ealing Council has apologised to the family of a man found dead after a benefit demand error.

Peter Plumb, 71, a former RAF veteran and Red Cross charity worker, had been under massive pressure after being wrongly informed by Ealing Council that he had to pay back over £6,000 in housing benefit.

His benefits had been stopped because the council said they'd been told by HMRC that Mr Plumb, had had a change in income and wrote and told him he needed to repay 2 years of overpayments.

His son James says his father's circumstances had NOT changed and the demand had been a huge shock. The grandad-of-one became so anxious and stressed, he stopped leaving his flat and wrote messages reminding him to venture out.

James, grew concerned after not hearing from him on either of their birthdays in October and eventually got police to break in to his small studio flat in Avenue Crescent in Acton. He was shocked to find his dad dead and nearby a list containing all the things he was planning to sell, including war medals and other historical memorabilia which he had been collecting all his life.

He says, ''  My dad expressed so much anxiety and worry to me on a weekly basis over a few months. He had written a dispute letter along with what he had received from HMRC, a letter proving his income had not changed.''

Ealing Council has since admitted an error was made and apologised.

A spokesperson said: '' The council received a notification of a change in circumstance for Mr Plumb’s non-state pension together with historic earnings details and put in place the appropriate action.  Unfortunately, because it takes time for the changes that we implemented to register back with the DWP, the DWP sent a further notification containing HMRC information which indicated earnings as continuing and at that point an error was made by the council to include earnings for Mr Plumb creating an overpayment on Mr Plumb's account.

“A letter and invoice was then issued by the council and when Mr Plumb called us with his concerns in September, he was informed that the account would be put on hold and no further action would be taken until the matter was resolved. Sadly Mr Plumb died before we were able to investigate his case.''

James is devastated by his father's premature death which he believes needn't have happened, he said, '' Dad should be enjoying his retirement now but the massive stress he was put under led to this. I'm heartbroken and furious too - this could have been avoided.''

Ealing Liberal Democrat Councillor Gary Malcolm has dealt with a similar case involving an elderly couple in his ward he said, "It is very worrying when an elderly couple, who have a number of serious medical conditions including a previous heart attack, received a letter stating they owed the Council over £8000. For weeks while the false claim was being investigated the couple suffered a great deal of stress. Eventually the Council admitted they had made mistakes and apologised but how many others are in the same situation?"

A council spokesperson added, '' We have received a complaint from Mr Plumb’s son and will be responding in full direct to him. We are very sorry to hear of the death of Mr Plumb and send our sympathies to his family."


19 December 2017

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