A Windrush almsman who has lived in Britain for 62 years was landed with a bill of added than £33,000 from the government for accomplished affliction allowances and threatened with deportation.
Valerie Baker, 66, came to Britain from Jamaica as a four-year-old in 1955 on her aunt’s passport. Her mother and ancestor had accustomed a year beforehand afterwards demography up the allurement to advice clean the country afterwards the war.
She was accomplished in London, and formed all her activity but was affected into aboriginal retirement in 2008 because of abiding aback problems.
Last April, she accustomed a letter from the Home Office, cogent her she had “no allowable base to abide in the UK and you should leave as anon as possible”. If she didn’t leave the country aural seven days, she was told she could be abandoned at any time.
“I was aloof so numb. At aboriginal I anticipation it was an April Fool’s antic because the letter came on 1 April. It aloof came out of the blue, I absolutely kept cerebration it can’t be true,” she said.
She and her bedmate Tony, were so afraid they larboard their home “in case they showed up with vans and took me away”. They began to anguish that she would be put in a apprehension centre. Tony, 71, who suffers from aerial claret pressure, was badly fatigued about how his wife would book on her own in a country she had never been aback to.
As the absoluteness of the blackmail sank in, Valerie Baker began to accept baleful thoughts. “I was thinking, ‘I’ve got no children, I’ve got no ancestors in Jamaica. If I’m abandoned I’m activity to be there all on my own’,” she said. “Being in a apprehension centre would be worse than prison. It does accomplish you suicidal, you accept no hope.”
“I am British. That’s all I can be. I don’t apperceive annihilation else,” she said. “The alone bodies I knew in Jamaica were an aunt and uncle, and they were dead.”
This was alone a commencement for what was to come. On 6 June, she accustomed a letter from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), adage her affliction allowance was stopped.
On 28 June addition letter landed, ambitious she acknowledgment “overpayments” of £33,590.20 in benefits. They additionally told her she had “misrepresented the actuality that you were British aback in actuality you were accountable to clearing control”.
Sitting in her bashful Grimsby home, Valerie recalls: “I aloof went berserk. I got assimilate the DWP and they wouldn’t allege to me. Aback I gave them the advertence cardinal they told me it was an clearing case.
“I again got authority of addition in the Home Office and they wouldn’t do anything. They said it was out of their hands.”
On 6 August, she got addition letter from the DWP cogent her if she didn’t pay the £33,590.20 they would put a debt accumulating bureau on to her.
“I was livid. I’ve formed all my life,” she said. “I am not a scrounger. It is not as if I haven’t paid into the civic allowance system. The affair is, they are so aloof they won’t alike allege to you,” she said.
“I was actual angry, I still am. I appetite a able acknowledgment from Theresa May. I apperceive she has apologised but that’s not acceptable enough. I anticipate we all charge a claimed apology.”
She believes it was a aback operation six months afore the displacement letter accustomed that prompted the situation, because NHS managers can ask for affidavit of alms back the “hostile environment” legislation was introduced.
By authentic chance, Valerie was able to appoint a advocate at Kingsley Napley, a arch City firm, because her sister had formed as a secretary there 10 years ago. “Others may not be so lucky,” she said. She fought her case and assuredly got her British citizenship through alliance to her husband, Tony, who is an English national. The DWP alone its affirmation afterwards her British citizenship was documented.
Obtaining citizenship this way was easier than aggravating to prove Valerie was advantaged to a “right of abode” as a affiliate of the Windrush bearing accession as a British subject, said Marcia Longdon, her lawyer.
“This woman is a archetypal citizen. An educated, able accountant who is admired in her association and has contributed civic allowance to the country for 40 years. This shows how little account they have,” Longdon added.
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