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Retired gardener takes his own life after change in benefits system, inquest hears

Malcolm Burge was left owing more than £800 to Newham council in London, after backlog in implementing government changes to welfare.

A retired gardener took his own life after a change in the benefits system that left him owing more than £800 to his local council in London, an inquest has heard.

Newham council admitted a failure to deal with Malcolm Burge’s benefit issue because of the backlog of cases after the change.

Burge, 66, who lived in a lodge at the City of London cemetery, wrote to the council telling them he was “depressed, stressed and suicidal”, saying: “I have no savings or assets. I am not trying to live, I am trying to survive.”

Shortly afterwards, he drove to Cheddar Gorge in Somerset, where he killed himself in his car. Speaking after his inquest at Bridgwater, Somerset, his sister, Carol Higdon, said: “He was a very quiet and proud man. We knew nothing about all this until after his death.”

Burge began claiming benefits when he became a carer to his father. He left his job as a gardener at the cemetery and became entitled to housing benefit, council tax benefit and a state and work pension.

Government alterations to welfare policy in January 2013 meant Burge’s weekly housing benefit, paid by Newham borough council, should have been cut from £89.39 to £44.75.

This was not implemented owing to a “backlog” at the authority and Burge continued to receive the higher amount.

The pensioner, who did not realise he should have received less, was horrified when the authority issued a demand for an £809.79 overpayment.

Full story in the Guardian


+3 #5 angela 2015-02-07 09:17
I,m not far behind this man i cant take anymore of this bedroom tax leaves me short every month no more cash left just waiting and hoping for may please god get this goverment out
+3 #4 Paul Richards 2015-02-05 21:52
Hi all,
Yes, Just Me, Bill & Mrs Bill & tintack,
What a terrible tragedy for this man and his family.
If only he knew that he could have actively fought this 'Council's' decision - and even if they found that he had to pay it back - it could have been done at say, £1 per week for umpteen years.
I realise that it can be very difficult for 'negative thinking' persons to be able to deal with this - but, if one is 'positive' in thinking - there is ALWAYS a way of dealing with these sort of unfortunate situations - it is a case of sitting down and rationally thinking of a suitable way to deal with it all and actioning it all of the way through.
Keep PHOTOCOPIES of everything in CAPITALS:- Tel calls/details, LETTERS, e-mails/SUBMITT ED FORMS and get a name of anyone contacted for your records - (this is invaluable).
This applies to ALL :- DWP/ATOS/CAPITA /LOCAL COUNCIL communications, etc, - you will then have a proper (referencial) record of it all to refer back to if necessary.
Please keep these WELL FILED in case you need them in the future. If you have to Appeal - you will definitely need all of these COPIES for your reference (and further possible copying also!)
However, I also understand that some people are unable (through their own means/devices) to deal with all of this.
+7 #3 tintack 2015-02-04 18:42
Quoting Bill:
Part of the proud record of this Tory led Government. :cry:

Bill & Mrs Bill

Well, he's not on benefits any more, is he? So as far as the government is concerned this is a success story, as it shows how they're cutting the welfare bill! Or, as Osborne would put it, deaths like these are "a price that works for our country" (where "our country" is defined as "the richest people in the country").
+6 #2 Bill 2015-02-04 18:29
Part of the proud record of this Tory led Government. :cry:

Bill & Mrs Bill
+9 #1 Just Me 2015-02-04 12:24
Dear god. Welcome to Cameron's Britain. :(

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