Mainstream national news media currently focuses on the piecemeal solution of increasing policing to reduce knife crime. Meanwhile, UK central government’s cross-government plan aimed at reducing suicides fails to include the Department for Work & Pensions, despite years of evidence linking such deaths with the disability benefits system and social security reforms.

Both knife crime and suicide have links with social exclusion, and part of my personal approach to living life more meaningfully as a lifelong disabled person and benefit claimant has been to think of myself as a witness rather than a victim.

In July 2018 Herefordshire Council Housing Benefits (HB) wrote to me: “I am writing to inform you that future benefit payments of Housing Benefit have been suspended with effect from 10/07/2018. This is because we have been advised that there are other people living in your property.” Their standard, form letter demanded a reply within ten days advising them of the ‘other occupants’ of the property in order to have my HB payments reinstated – while I was still the only occupant in a single person house!

So I scanned that letter to my computer as an e-mail attachment, put the record straight by e-mail and copied in my ward councillor. Ward councillor got onto HB within the hour, saying she would discuss the matter with them. HB then replied “payments unsuspended” – they had confused my address with another!

Perhaps the ways in which Herefordshire Council letters are worded and targeted should be examined more closely?

Alan Wheatley