Let me lay it out as simply as I can:
- Since 2001 my National Insurance has been paid by me, out of 'pocket money' my husband gave me over the years.
- As such, when I started receiving ESA last April I should have been put on Contributions Based ESA. (I need to check whether I was or not).
- Contributions Based ESA is not means tested. They do not take into account the income of your partner, or your savings.
- Contributions Based ESA, is however, limited to 12 months.
- In November of last year I received a divorce settlement. At the time I was uncertain of whether it would affect my benefit, since it was more than £16,000, so I phoned the DWP for advice.
- I was informed that any savings over £16,000 meant I was disqualified from receiving ESA, but I would still receive my NI stamp.
- I discovered a few months ago that when I made that phonecall they closed my claim to ESA, which means that since November my NI stamp has not been paid either.
- The person I spoke to did not tell me they were closing my claim. I received no mail informing me that my claim was closed. I received no mail informing me that they would cease paying my ESA either.
- When I was informed, a few months ago, that my claim had been closed in November, they also told me that I should have been providing bank statements to the DWP since November, showing my spending. (This confused me).
There has been a mistake somewhere. Either I was not on Contributions Based ESA, which I should have been, and that is why my claim was closed ... or the person I spoke to at the DWP incorrectly assumed that I was on Income Related ESA and closed my claim when they should not have. I suspect the latter happened, as that would possibly explain why I received no mail (ie, someone covering their tracks just made the claim disapear).
So, my job now, it seems is to:
- Check whether I was on Contributions Based ESA or Income Related ESA to start with.
- Assuming I was on Contributionas Based ESA, I will need to collect together evidence for the DWP to claim back payments from November until April (as my claim would have been ceased in April anyway). With advice, the evidence I need is as follows:
- a timeline of date of claim,
- the decision letter,
- the time I was in receipt of payments and how much,
- when payments were stopped,
- my NI record showing payments not made,
- date received divorce settlement
Of these the only information I do not have is my NI records, but I am fairly sure I can get those from the DWP.
So, I invite you to follow me on this journey. I have no idea of what is to come, whether it will be very simple, or whether I will get absolutely nowhere. Let us see!