Apology to Fife woman left with just 47p after benefits stopped following hospital visit

© DC ThomsonMelanie Forrest (56) of Station Park, Lower Largo.
Melanie Forrest (56) of Station Park, Lower Largo.

The Department for Work and Pensions has apologised to a Fife woman who claims she was left “penniless” after her benefit was stopped.

Melanie Forrest, 56, of Lower Largo, said she was left with just 47 pence in her bank account after her personal independence payment (PIP) was suspended for two months.

The DWP has since admitted they made an error with her claim and said she will be paid arrears.

“They have admitted a mistake with the dates and that they owe me about £600 or £700, which is probably £800 now,” she said.

“It’s just appalling.”

Ms Forrest went into hospital for a hip replacement at the end of April and was discharged after four days.

If someone has been in hospital for 28 days, PIP is stopped.

She claims there was a mix-up about the amount of time she spent in hospital.

Because the payment had not gone into her account, she said she was not able to pay bills on time.

“Apparently they thought I was in for 28 days,” said Ms Forrest.

“The payment just suddenly stopped. They don’t realise that people rely on that money.”

She added: “I used to work for the NHS before I got osteoarthritis. I would love to go back to work in the hospital but I physically can’t do it.

“The money should have been through on Monday and if I hadn’t rung the bank I wouldn’t have known. Now, I’m going to have to pay bank charges.”

She also claims she spent many hours on the phone trying to sort out her payment.

“There was a lack of communication,” she said.

“You can’t speak to the same person, they won’t transfer you to a supervisor or a manager and they’re not noting things down.”

A DWP spokesman said: “Ms Forrest has continued to receive her ESA benefit, which is designed to offer a regular income, without interruption.

“Unfortunately there has been an error with her PIP claim covering additional costs, and we apologise to her for that and will be making a full payment of all arrears due to her.”

In April 2013, the UK Government introduced PIP as a replacement for disability living allowance.