Bill gets the money he’s owed after wrangle with government

CHALLENGE Don't always accept a ruling that a pension payment has turned 'stale'
CHALLENGE Don't always accept a ruling that a pension payment has turned 'stale'
Shonagh Dillon

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Bill Catlin was not a well man. In February last year the 87-year-old former post office worker from Portsea, was admitted to hospital for a leg amputation.

He subsequently suffered from a respiratory infection and in all was laid up for seven months before he could be discharged and return to his home.

Bill remembered that shortly before going into hospital he hadn’t cashed two pension cheques totalling £260, which were left in his flat.

‘I was in a lot of pain and a bit confused,’ he said. ‘But I remember putting them away somewhere, expecting I’d be home to cash them within a few weeks.’

But all didn’t go to plan and months later his primary concern was just getting through each day and dealing with his nurse and social worker to help with his mobility.

The two cheques were misplaced, remaining undiscovered until last March, when he promptly took steps to present them for payment.

But what appeared to him to be a simple formality turned into a bureaucratic nightmare.

Weeks later he received a letter from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) saying that the cheques were ‘stale’ and too much time had passed for them to be cashed.

He was asked to obtain a letter from his doctor confirming he was ill at the time, and the delay was due to his hospitalisation.

With the help of his social worker a doctor’s letter was obtained and forwarded to the DWP to confirm the circumstances, and the reason for the delay in presentation.

Despite complying fully with the department’s instructions, he heard nothing.

Another six weeks later, in desperation he contacted Streetwise to see if we could get the problem sorted.

We verified what Bill had told us, and made contact with the DWP.

After getting data protection clearance, we told the DWP that Bill appeared to have been shabbily treated, and the weeks of delay for a simple decision to be made about his pension payment was inexcusable.

The circumstances, although unusual, were surely not beyond the department to deal with in no time at all.

By return a spokesperson told us: ‘We have apologised to Mr Catlin for the delay in making a decision about his pension payments. We expect cheques to be cashed within 12 months, but accept that in some circumstances there may be a very good reason why they were not presented for payment in time and extend the payment period.

‘We’ve decided in this case the delay was due to unavoidable circumstances, and we’ve now phoned him to let him know the payment has been made.’

Bill contacted us to confirm the money was finally in his bank.

He said: ‘Thanks to your help the money owing to me was paid within a week.

‘What more can I say – Streetwise fixed it for me and I can’t thank you and The News enough for the wonderful service you provide.’