A WOMAN with severe brain damage and epilepsy has been ordered to repay hundreds of pounds of care payments after Town Hall officials criticised her for spending some of the money on coffee and cleaning.
Natasha Cox, a former Hampstead School student who lives in Hampstead, says she is struggling to maintain her independent life because of the bureaucracy surrounding “direct payments”.
The 32-year-old has received benefits paid into a bank account since 2007 and uses the money to hire carers and pay for anything that improves her health and state of mind.
But Camden Council has sent an unitemised invoice saying she owes them £842.22 as some of the payments were spent inappropriately.
“I am petrified at the moment,” Ms Cox said. “I am trying to get on with my life and live independently but I am constantly reminded of my disability by all these forms and threatening letters from the council.”
Victory for woman who was told ‘repay £800 benefits’
Camden New Journal 8 October, 2015
Thank you to the New Journal for highlighting this injustice.
Ms Cox was billed when the council changed earlier advice, now saying she was not allowed to spend the care money she is allocated on buying petrol or coffees as a thank-you to friends driving her and helping with shopping.
Ms Cox and other people with disabilities are in a Catch-22 situation. Direct payments, where we are in control of money allocated to us for our own care and choose who comes to our home, is being misused by councils to cover for cuts.
They save on administration costs and allocate less money than we need for our care so we are dependent on family and friends helping out unwaged. But when we buy small thank-yous for them, we are penalised, told we can’t spend our direct payments that way and sent huge bills. How many other people in Camden are being wrongly charged?
At WinVisible we are proud to be part of local and national campaigns against care cuts and charges, to Save the Independent Living Fund and for a living wage for care staff on zero-hour contracts.
Why are day centre users facing cuts and closure and being charged for attending the centre when Camden has spent a shameful £123million on a new town hall, and £130,000 on three art works – the amount being cut from Highgate Day Centre services and staff?
CLAIRE GLASMAN & HAMIDEH HASHEMI
WinVisible, Crossroads Women’s Centre, NW5