Vote for Greenwich food bank in the Lloyds Bank Community Fund awards!

Greenwich Foodbank has been helping thousands of people in south-east London who need emergency food supplies in times of crisis. Many individual stories from the food bank have been featured here during the past year. In the four months since April, food has been given to 2,000 people and the network of foodbanks is on target to help 6,000 people this year.

Today one of those visitors was “Jenny”,  a single parent with three children aged 16, seven and five. She can’t afford to buy food because her family has been affected by the imposition of the £500 a week benefit cap. This cap, in tandem with the need for her to pay back £6,000 – rent arrears and the court costs to retrieve the rent arrears –  has made life very difficult for Jenny and her kids. The last week or two has been extra difficult because of having to equip her daughter with a few clothes for sixth form.

The rent arrears meant she had to move out of her social housing and into private accommodation – a maisonette. This is London, so rents are extra expensive. Housing benefit pays £820 a month, but Jenny has to pay the rest of the £1,000 a month. Jenny says she could not deal with the rent arrears at the time, as she was depressed and was trying to deal with her partner’s longstanding issues with drug and alcohol addiction. She felt she had to grapple with her problems alone and couldn’t ask for help. He has since left. Jenny is now jobhunting and has been on jobseeker’s allowance for six weeks. She was given a voucher for the food bank by her younger children’s school.

The work done at the food bank by manager Alan Robinson and his team of dedicated volunteers is making a vital difference to the lives of many people like Jenny here in Greenwich. In many cases, as can be seen here,  they have helped to bring people back from the edge.

Voting started on Tuesday and continues until October 10. Full details on how to vote are given below:

Please do consider supporting the vital work done by the food bank.

Greenwich Foodbank is participating in the  Lloyds Bank Community FundCommunity Fund public VOTEThe number of votes cast in each community will decide how the Community Fund awards will be allocated. There are four shortlisted good causes in each community. The cause with the most votes will get £3,000, the second placed group £2,000, third £1,000 and fourth £500.

We would like to invite you to VOTE for Greenwich Foodbank. We are a project that partners with the Community and with Care Professionals to support those in crisis. You may VOTE online, by SMS Text, via Twitter or in a local branch. Details for each of these is given below:
Online voting – Go to:
To cast an online vote, a voter needs to enter their first name, last name and email address. Voters are then sent an email from the Lloyds Bank Community Fund. The voter needs to click on the link to have their vote confirmed. If they don’t click the link, the vote won’t be counted.
Only one vote per community group, per email address is allowed. The email address will only be used for administration of the Community Fund process.
Please note that within the confirmation email, we will not ask for any other personal or logon details or direct users to a page that asks for this information.
It’s really important to note that while you can email your mailing lists with details of how to cast a vote, under no circumstances can you cast online votes on their behalf. This is against the 1998 Data Protection Act. We closely monitor votes being cast and if we suspect that votes are being cast in this way, we’ll get in touch with you to discuss and discount those votes. The website will be available from Friday 29 August 2014, though votes cannot be cast until 2 September.
Voting opens online at 09:00 hours on Tuesday 2 September 2014 and closes at 23:59 hours on Friday 10 October 2014.
SMS text message voting


    1. Voters should text the word VOTE and HMJ community group code, to 61119. For example, text VOTE HMJ to 61119
  • SMS text message votes will be charged at the mobile users’ standard message rate and the phone number will only be used for administration of the Community Fund voting process.
  • Only one vote per community group, per mobile number is allowed to ensure fair play.
  • Your supporters can also find your unique code on your profile page of the website.
SMS text message voting opens at 09:00 hours on Tuesday 2 September 2014 and closes at 23:59 hours on Friday 10 October 2014.
Twitter voting
Via your Twitter account:
a. Create a new message.
b. This message must contain the following #CommFund and the unique three character community group HMJ code, eg. #CommFund HMJ.
c. Your followers can then retweet your message to vote.
Please note:
  1. You may have to login or create an account in order to vote.
  2. You must have a public account so that your vote is able to be seen.
  3. There must be a space between #CommFund and the community group code.
Voting opens at 09:00 hours on Tuesday 2 September 2014 and closes at 23:59 hours on Friday 10 October 2014.
Voting in Lloyds Bank branches (not available in Northern Ireland)
Your group will be one of four groups promoted in Lloyds Bank branches, Blackfen, Blackheath or Sidcup. We’ll be inviting our customers and the public to cast their vote with a token into a voting stand when they visit the branch. You can encourage your supporters to cast their votes in branch too, however, there is some guidance in place to make sure that voting remains a positive and fair experience for everyone.
  1. Visitors to branches should approach the enquiry desk, if the branch has one, or an available member of staff to ask for a token.
  2. Voters do not need to be a customer of Lloyds Bank to cast a vote in branch.
  3. Votes will only be counted at the end of the voting period and will then be added to the online, SMS and Twitter votes.
Voting will be available during normal branch opening hours from Tuesday 2 September to Friday 10 October 2014 – times vary locally, so please do check.


Gina is chased for a £732 working tax credit ‘debt’: ‘It’s another form of sanction’

Gina is chased for a £732 working tax credit  ‘debt’: ‘It’s another form of sanction’

Gina Lomax says it is "immoral" that she has been told to pay back £732 in working tax credit.
Gina Loxam says it is “immoral” that she has been told to pay back £732 in working tax credit.
When is a debt not a debt? When it’s £732 that the government says is now owed by Gina Loxam in Working Tax Credit (WTC).

Gina, a single woman of 58 from the north-west of England, had been on WTC – a means tested payment for those in low-paid work – including self-employed people. It’s paid by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). Unfortunately Gina, who lost her beloved pet shop business in the recession, became very ill with depression. Following an assessment by ATOS, she was placed on employment and support allowance (ESA) in the work-related activity group. Because she was receiving WTC, this amount was deducted from her ESA to ensure she only got £100 per week.

She did her WTC return only to discover she was no longer entitled to it after 28 weeks off sick. She has now been told that she owes HMRC £732. ESA will not back date their reduced underpayments to cover this, saying she should have informed WTC directly when she went onto ESA. Gina says of this demand from the HMRC: “I was in no fit state to even feed myself let alone notify loads of different departments of my current status. I am now left with a debt of £732 for money I never received off the ESA. This is morally wrong and theft. Apparently this is happening to a lot of people on WTC who went onto ESA. Why are these departments not liaising and ensuring the claimants are aware of the rules? This is another way of sanctioning the vunerable.”

Gina wants the ESA to backdate her full benefit to the date the WTC ceased so that she can pay the WTC back from the reimbursed ESA underpayments. She adds: “I also want to raise awareness of how immoral this whole situation is. I am not asking for anything I was not entitled too. If I have to pay this back, it means I would have been only receiving £47 for three months instead of £100. It boils down to theft of benefits.”

She says of people who are ill and in her situation: “It’s ridiculous to have a debt you don’t really owe because you were underpaid ESA. How many people have been affected by this? It’s another form of sanction. I have worked all my life and to be in this position is abhorrent. I’ve written a letter to the HMRC telling them I can’t pay.”

Gina wrote to her local MP, Conservative David Morris, for help. He replied: “There is no scope for discretion within the law relating to Social Security, and that is something which we must all accept as fact, regardless of whether or not we agree with it. It has long been intrinsic within Social Security Legislation that the onus of responsibility to provide accurate information, details and documentation both at the outset of a claim, and at all stages thereafter, rests with the claimant. This would include therefore, reporting change of circumstances. The regulations say that it is your duty to report any change in your circumstances which you might be reasonably expected to know could affect your right to, the amount of, or the payment of, your benefits.
This is Regulation 32(1A) and (1B) of the Social Security (Claims and Payments) Regulations 1987. It is not the responsibility of any individual or Government Department to notify someone either that they are eligible to claim a particular benefit, or to take action on an assumption of a change of circumstances. If you fail to disclose a material fact which affects your entitlement, (whether unintentional or otherwise) then an overpayment will be deemed to have occurred. Such overpayments are then generally recoverable.”

She wrote back to Mr Morris telling him that she did not receive an overpayment. “The Government can’t have it both ways. I was underpaid my ESA. If I had been getting the full benefit for WTC and ESA I would have been overpaid. But this is not an overpayment as I did not get my full ESA entitlement! I don’t even want the money paid back to me but to go direct to HMRC clearing my ‘debt’. An inter department transfer.”. She continued: “The whole situation is theft and a sanction. I am sure you would not be happy if you were expected to lose seven weeks of your salary due to an honest mistake.”

Gina wants to know how many people have been affected by this issue. She added: “It’s just immoral. It’s a secret sanction. They’re not telling people what they need to do, yet they are very quick to penalize people for not doing it. I was bouncing back (from depression), but I’m not now. I’m worrying about money I’ve lost that I should have had. I’m not going to pay this. I refuse.”

She points out that when she applied for ESA she had to note on the claim form which benefits she was claiming and that she listed WTC. “So they would have had that information, they knew I was on it. Why wasn’t that automatically flagged on the system once I’d been on ESA for more than 28 weeks? The DWP should automatically send out a letter after 28 weeks to those on WTC informing them that they are now going to get full ESA and they will either inform WTC or you have to. Simple.”

Thanks to Gina for flagging up this issue. Please get in touch if you have had similar problems with WTC and ESA.