'They are frightening her' - disabled woman from Finchley forced to repay benefits

Biba Heywood has been told she owes almost £2,400 in wrongly paid benefits

Biba Heywood has been told she owes almost £2,400 in wrongly paid benefits

First published in News
Last updated
Times Series: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Reporter

A disabled woman has been left tearful and confused over claims she owes thousands of pounds in repayments for benefits she tried to give up.

Biba Heywood, who lives in Finchley, was sent a “threatening” letter claiming she owes HM Revenue and Customs £2,384 for wrongly claiming working tax credit.

The 42-year-old, who has severe learning difficulties, was entitled to receive the sum in 2007 when working in Tesco because she had been contracted to work over 16 hours a week.

However when her hours averaged out to less than 16 hours, she attempted to cancel the benefit but says her request was denied.

She has been out of work since December 2007 and is struggling to find the money to repay the debt.

Biba was also left in a further £1,617 of debt after the Department for Work and Pensions said it had incorrectly paid her a disability benefit.

But after the Times Series contacted the government department, it agreed the exceptional circumstances of the situation meant they would cancel the fee owed.

Biba's sister, Danielle Heywood, said: “She doesn’t understand what it all means or how serious this could be. She doesn’t understand the concept of money and that you need money to live.

“She didn’t deliberately breach it. They promised her everything would be ok and that her hours would average out.

“It’s so unfair. They’re frightening her, making her cry and leaving her feel very confused.”

However, Danielle is still having sleepless nights over the outstanding £2,384 to HMRC, and despite numerous letters, the two are no closer to seeing it waived.

She added: “She’s oblivious, even though she understands something is going on, she’s not quite sure what. I, on the other hand, am really panicking about what could happen.

“They’re adamant she’ll pay it back but how can she? They’re threatening someone completely innocent who just hasn’t got the money.”

Biba developed a learning disability after frequent epileptic fits as a baby left her with brain damage.

The condition has affected her speech, she struggles in social situations and finds it difficult to absorb new facts and information.

However, she hates being considered “disabled” or “different” and after being turned down for countless jobs, rescinded all of her benefits.

She added: “It doesn’t make me feel good to know I owe this money, that’s why I want a job.

“I hate signing on and I’d rather not do it as I am a normal person inside, so I want people to see what I am.”

HMRC said it could not comment.

Comments (2)

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3:08am Wed 23 Jul 14

Χριστός-Παλμερ says...

I don't understand this govt. I was abused by 2 bailiffs over a month ago for a debt that wasn't even mine, the fact that I'm disabled and vulnerable didn't stop them from marching me to the post office to pay off my girlfriend's debts. Welcome to Cameron's Britain, where bullies rule, OK!
I don't understand this govt. I was abused by 2 bailiffs over a month ago for a debt that wasn't even mine, the fact that I'm disabled and vulnerable didn't stop them from marching me to the post office to pay off my girlfriend's debts. Welcome to Cameron's Britain, where bullies rule, OK! Χριστός-Παλμερ
  • Score: 2

7:47pm Thu 24 Jul 14

DJFearRoss says...

Typical. So if she never worked at all her whole life, she could get it all for free and never be chased for anything. Something wrong with this country.
Typical. So if she never worked at all her whole life, she could get it all for free and never be chased for anything. Something wrong with this country. DJFearRoss
  • Score: 2

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