The nightmare for Andrew and Jayne McDonald* began in July 2013, with a letter from their local council. In 2009 they had moved to a London borough and started claiming housing benefit. Andrew’s earnings as a teaching assistant were low and Jayne was a full-time carer to their severely autistic son, so finances were a struggle.
The letter, out of the blue, said that the couple had never been entitled to housing benefit and now had to pay back £52,000. Although the council admitted this error was its fault, the couple’s attempts to have a face-to-face meeting and reach an agreement with the council were stonewalled. Despite paying their entire savings of £12,000 towards the debt, they kept receiving more letters demanding the total amount within seven days.
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