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Mum’s Universal Credit nightmare: DWP and Camden Council apologise after benefits errors and lockdown eviction threats

PUBLISHED: 18:26 16 June 2020 | UPDATED: 11:20 17 June 2020

Hazel Ampadu with her young son. Picture: Siorna Ashby

Hazel Ampadu with her young son. Picture: Siorna Ashby

Archant

Both Camden Council and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have apologised after a South Hampstead mum was threatened with eviction proceedings during lockdown.

The Alexandra Place trampoline has since been dismantled. Picture: Hazel AmpaduThe Alexandra Place trampoline has since been dismantled. Picture: Hazel Ampadu

Hazel Ampadu, who has a five year-old son who suffers from hypermobility syndrome, was told by a town hall housing officer on May 7 to call her about paying rent arrears “by 10am on Monday”.

“Failure to do so will result in court action and eviction,” she was told.

Alexandra Place resident Hazel told this newspaper it was doubly traumatic as she was only in arrears due to errors with her Universal Credit (UC).

The town hall said its employee had not handled Hazel’s case correctly, and the DWP has admitted it owes her £430.12.

Hazel Ampadu with her young son. Picture: Siorna AshbyHazel Ampadu with her young son. Picture: Siorna Ashby

The DWP confirmed it complied with a Camden request to pay rent directly to the town hall on May 5.

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The young mum’s issue only came to light as she had unsuccessfully petitioned Camden Council to allow a trampoline to remain in the communal garden of her block during lockdown for children who needed exercise, including her son.

The town hall demanded its removal and defended it as a measure to combat Covid-19.

After she was told she’d have to foot the removal bill herself, Hazel removed the trampoline.

She said there was a lack of clarity around UC and whether or not the rent portion would be paid directly to Camden. Added to this, an unfair sanction on her payments – she said she had not been able to hand in sicknotes while the Jobcentre was closed – and maintenance issues had led to her falling behind on rent.

Hazel said: “It’s been so stressful. I’ve had to borrow money to pay and to live. I’ve been so upset by the situation – my son hardly has any room inside the house.

“The trampoline made us all feel a bit happier and it’s such a shame it’s been taken away.”

Cllr Meric Apak, Camden’s housing chief, said: “We have apologised to the tenant directly for the way this matter was handled.”

The town hall confirmed no tenant would lose their home during the pandemic.

A spokesperson for the DWP said it had discovered an “underpayment” in Hazel’s UC account and added: “We have contacted Ms Ampadu to apologise for this, and to arrange for payment to be made.”


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