A disabled Dundee man has been forced to turn to food banks to survive after falling victim to a suspected benefits hack.
James Marr, 52, from Fintry said he also had no electricity or heating because a system ‘glitch’ left him with no money at all.
The matter is being investigated by the police, after the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) advised Mr Marr to report his situation.
He said: “There was a point where I had nothing at all.
“I had no food and no heating or electric because of this situation.
“I had to go to a foodbank for the first time in my life. I got a food parcel but I couldn’t even heat up the tin of beans in it because I had no money to top up my electric meter.
“This has been a dreadful time. I already have a range of physical and mental health issues and this has had a severe impact on my mental health.”
James explained that he had been due to be paid Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) benefit payments on November 6.
“However, nothing arrived in my bank account,” he said.
“I contacted the DWP who informed me that they had paid me. I assured them I had not received any payment. The DWP advised me to contact the police, which I did.”
James said that on the day his payment was due, he received a text message saying “cash out at 8.01am.”
He said: “This is a method that is used by the DWP if there are issues with payments.
“However, the message is usually accompanied by a code, that is then presented at a paypoint where cash is given.
“In this instance I received a message, but no accompanying code.”
James said he didn’t understand why the DWP had advised him to go to the police but was concerned that some form of scam or hacking of his account had taken place.
He said: “I have had to do without adequate food and heating for almost two weeks because an error has been made with my benefits.
“I was forced to go to a foodbank which I really didn’t want to do but I was left with no option.
“I would have had no food otherwise because I had no money to buy any.
“I am due to get a benefit payment again this week, but if that doesn’t come through I will be left in the same situation.”
James secured some funding from the Scottish Welfare Fund which he used to buy some essentials.
“No one is updating me on any progress being made to find out what happened to my payments, no one is contacting me to ask how I am managing, or if this is having a detrimental effect on my health,” he said.
People urged to contact advice agencies
Ginny Lawson, manager at Dundee’s Brooksbank Centre which offers practical support as well as benefits guidance, said: “We cannot comment on individual cases but from our experience, missing or delayed benefit payments cause severe financial hardship and stress to claimants.
“We would advise anyone in Dundee where a regular benefit payment does not arrive on the due date, for whatever reason, to contact the relevant DWP department to report this.
“I would also urge people to swiftly contact one of the city’s advice agencies: not only can we all assist with unravelling the problem, we can also communicate with the DWP for people who find this difficult.”
Ginny also urged people to contact advice agencies, which provide referrals for extra support such as electricity fuel top ups, food parcels and crisis grants, until benefit payment issues issues are resolved.
She said: “I do sympathise with this gentleman, as he clearly is having to cope with a problem through no fault of his own.
“Coronavirus has made life harder for everyone and restrictions have meant advice agencies have increased demand. Regardless of this increase, however, advice agencies will always attempt to deal with the crisis as getting food and fuel to people is their first priority. ”
A DWP spokesman said: “Mr Marr will receive his next payment on Friday and we will be contacting him to see what other support we can offer.
“Meanwhile, we can confirm that a payment was made to Mr Marr, and our records show it was cashed. This is now a matter for the police.”
A spokesman for Police Scotland said: “We are aware of the matter and looking into it.”
Agencies who can assist with crises and ongoing money concerns are as follows:
Council Advice Services: 01382 431188 and select the correct service
- For Scottish Welfare Fund press 1
- For Council Advice Services press 2
- For DEEAP Energy Advice press 3
Brooksbank Centre Money Advice Team : 01382 432450
CAB Citizens Advice Bureau: 01382 214633