A STUDENT FROM the University of York who suffers from severely impaired hearing recently won an appeal worth several thousand pounds against the City of York Council after contacting her local MP.
Louise Moody, 25, who is currently studying as a post-graduate in the Philosophy department, applied for Incapacity Benefit in her first-year on the grounds of her disability. For two years the council paid between £35 and £55 per week to assist with accommodation payments, until June this year when Moody received a letter informing her she was not entitled to the payments and that they would be stopped immediately.
The Council also ordered that Moody repay the £1900 which she had so far received. The Council stated that this was because her student loan had excluded her from the “vulnerable” group throughout the period of payment, despite the fact she had stated her financial income in full in her initial application.
The City of York Council website states that “most full time students cannot claim housing benefit”, and a spokeswoman said at the time “we appreciate Ms Moody’s concern over the issue and accept that the overpayment was due to a council error”.
After receiving the letter, Moody contacted University Welfare Officer Sam Marsden who built a case for appeal at a scheduled tribunal. This included contacting local MP Hugh Bayley from the City of York Constituency, who communicated with officials, asking them to overturn their decision.
On Friday November 3, a letter of apology was sent to Moody from the head of the Benefits Office, stating that the error was the fault of the Council and apologised for her not receiving the “normal level of service”.
The reversal means that no reimbursement will be required, and payments of £52 per week will continue because she is no longer in receipt of a loan as a post-graduate.
Speaking of her relief that the problem was resolved, Moody said “I was most annoyed at the extreme levels I had to take. I am relieved the problem has been sorted, but disappointed I had to escalate it to an appeal tribunal, the York Press, and the MP.
She added: “The reason I receive benefits is because I’m profoundly deaf and I can’t get a job like other students to support myself. I handed in lots of paperwork about my incapacity benefit and student loans when I applied”.
By Daniel Whitehead