Universal credit: Neasden man with epilepsy told to live on £16 a month by welfare bosses
PUBLISHED: 12:00 01 August 2019 | UPDATED: 17:50 01 August 2019
A Neasden man with severe epilepsy has been told to live on £16 a month by government welfare bosses and threatened with a court case by Brent Council over an alleged overpayment of housing benefit.
David George Strong, 54, has been unable to work for decades due to his illness, and has been reduced to begging and waiting for food to be binned outside of supermarkets.
The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), which administers the Universal Credit (UC) system, said David's payments had been lowered because it turned out both it and Brent Council had been doubling up paying his housing benefit - a hang over from the old system that UC replaced.
The DWP added it was now paying "about £1,200" directly to David's landlord.
The council said David did not owe it any money, but did not explain why he had been sent a letter - shown to the Times - in June which threatened him with a County Court summons should he fail to hand back more than £2,000.
David says he is baffled by the deluge of paperwork he has received during the dispute, adding the issue has left him desperate.
"I don't know where to turn," he told the Times. "At first I was told I'd get £11 a month; now it's £16 but not until August. How can I live off that?"
"Sometimes people buy me a little bit of food, but I'm surviving on scraps.
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"If you go down to the Iceland late at night they sometimes there's stuff by the bins in the car park.
"I've just got to go out and go out so I can possibly get enough to eat."
"When I was on the phone to them [the DWP], all they said is: 'Go to a food bank.'"
He is also worried about being asked to pay council tax, which he cannot afford as he is unable to work.
A DWP spokesperson told this newspaper: "There are numerous safeguards in place to ensure deductions from Universal Credit are affordable.
"People can speak to their work coach if they need additional support."
A council spokesperson said: "We're sorry to hear about Mr Strong's situation and have contacted the DWP as we are concerned about what he has said about his circumstances.
"We can confirm that he does not owe the council any money.
"We provided financial assistance when Mr Strong moved onto Universal Credit earlier in the year and will work with him to see if there's anything else we can do.
"Sadly, the roll out of Universal Credit is causing difficulties for our residents and we will offer any help we are able to."