Cash demands made me feel like a cheat

Payback time: Michelle Borden was chased for invalidity benefit that she had never claimed
Payback time: Michelle Borden was chased for invalidity benefit that she had never claimed
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IT was the high-handed, disbelieving attitude that made Michelle Borden mad – that and the second rogue demand for £2,250.

Michelle received a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions demanding she pay up in 14 days. It simply stated: ‘We have contacted you about paying back this money’.

And indeed it had. Back in October she was chased for invalidity benefit they said she received in error while at school 15 years earlier.

Alarmed, Michelle, aged 31, of Hartley Brook Avenue, Shiregreen, called them to ask for an explanation, or evidence. That was when she felt the DWPs high-handedness the first time.

A letter said: ‘The evidence would have been available to the decision maker at the time, by law we can recover the outstanding debt.’

Thankfully, she contacted Action Desk and the DWP immediately backed down.

But six months later it was as if nothing had happened. The new letter threatened to take the money from her earnings or hire debt collectors or take her to court.

Michelle rang the department, but felt she wasn’t believed – even the bit about appearing in The Star.

She said: “I found this person very arrogant. I have recently got over a very traumatic birth and I’m just getting myself well. This has caused me great stress and made me feel like a cheat and a liar. If I could afford a solicitor I would sue the DWP.”

Action

A DWP spokesman said: “We will be in touch with Mrs Borden to apologise sincerely for this error. We will not be seeking recovery of this money.”

Michelle said: “Many thanks. Sheffield is lucky to have a paper that helps people like me.”