CASE STUDY: Mr. and Ms. D.

In June 2016, an elderly couple, Mr. and Ms. D, came to our office in a desperate situation seeking advice.

Mr. D. was suffering from acute leukaemia and he was not able to work anymore, whilst Mrs. D. has never worked. Therefore, they had no savings and, at that moment, they were unable to pay their rent and had no money for food and other daily essentials.

They had no friends or family to support them. Moreover, because they did not speak English, they were unable to get help from local authorities and proper care in the hospital, even though they were entitled to. They were totally vulnerable, at risk of destitution and homelessness and Mr. D.’s life was in danger.

EERC’s Support

Firstly, we provided them with Food Bank vouchers that covered their food supply for 4 weeks. The next step was to obtain a valid passport for Mr. D., in order to be able to apply for benefits. We sent a letter to the Polish consulate explaining Mr. D.’s desperate situation and asking them to issue him a passport without charge. Our request was successful and within a week Mr. D. got a new passport.

It was important to apply for the benefits they were entitled to. We obtained Personal Independent Payment for Mr. D. within 3 weeks with backdated payments. For Mrs. D., we applied for Career’s Allowance, which she also got within 3 weeks. This money was vital for them to survive.

Next, their housing situation needed to be solved as they had received an eviction notice from the landlord, which we managed to reverse. We chased the Housing Benefit claim started previously for them by their Macmilan (cancer charity) adviser and we applied for social housing from the council. To complete Mr. D.’s benefits claim, our advisers also applied for Employment and Support Allowance which was awarded and backdated from the beginning of his illness. As a result, the Housing benefits came through as well, also backdated.

Lastly, we helped Mr. D. to submit his tax returns for the last 7 years by liaising with an HMRC adviser, who helped him achieve this in one session. The tax returns are going to enable him to apply for permanent residence in the future.

EE nationals are less likely to receive proper assistance from local authorities in the UK due to the language barrier and immigration status. In the case of elderly people this is often accompanied by low levels of technological literacy.

During all this time, we tried to find them suitable accommodation through other means, and we succeeded in securing them a one-bedroom flat in the Polish Retired Persons Association. The place fitted their needs perfectly, they were highly satisfied with it and happy they could eventually move out their previous shared house.

For 6 months, our team worked many hours to help the couple and by December 2016, their life situation was totally different than when they firstly came to see us, they were now living in a nice place, had an income and Mr. D’s health had significantly improved. The amount of benefits we got for them is reaching over 30K.

Elderly migrants are a very vulnerable group because are less likely to know their rights and how to navigate the benefit system.