Babak was self-employed and doing well, but then his wife fell seriously ill. He went from working full-time to caring for her full-time. Because his caregiving took precedence, he applied for and was granted support through Universal Credit. At the advice of his coach, who monitored Babak, he filed for early retirement as soon as he was able. Through the support of his benefits and pension, he was able to continue to care for his wife full-time.
A year after applying for retirement, he received a letter that his benefits had been overpaid in the amount of £12,000 and that he would have to repay it. “They stopped my housing benefit. They stopped everything. It was a very tough time for me.”
Convinced that this was an error, he filed an appeal including all necessary paperwork but he didn’t get a response. “I am not a rich man, but I am a strong man. I have passed many problems including emigrating, but this one [proved beyond me].”
When he contacted Citizens Advice Barnet he was in rent arrears and overdraft with eviction and council tax bills looming. So began a year-long process of back and forth including fighting against the overpayment, reapplying for benefits, and much time spent waiting for responses.
“It was a big experience. Hasan and Susan, they said what happened to me was unfair and they looked after me. In the end, they were successful. But along the way, they supported me, even emotionally. They are very good people.”
After a quiet period, Babak suddenly received a letter from Universal Credit. “I am very happy. Universal Credit accepted their fault and apologized.” They wrote off the overpayment and even paid Babak compensation for “gross inconvenience.”
After the letter came, his relief was immense. “It was the worst time in my life, not because of money, but because I knew that they were wrong and it might not matter. I follow the news. I can see that many families have problems like this…some worse than this. Thank God I had enough evidence to prove it was not my fault.”
Though the process was long and painful, he is quick to acknowledge the support of Citizens Advice Barnet: “Citizens Advice Barnet work for the people – not just because of money, but because of human rights.”
Citizens Advice Barnet work for the people – not just because of money, but because of human rights.