Jobless student’s hunger strike over £2k benefit claim

July 13, 2010 | by | 0 Comments

A jobless student drop-out who is ”too depressed to work” has gone on hunger strike in protest against his local Jobcentre who he claims owe HIM money.

Unemployed Leigh Brown, 27, believes he is £2,000 out of pocket because the Department for Work and Pensions have not paid him benefits while he is ill.

Brown crashed out of his TV and Film Production course at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge last October.

He was diagnosed with ”anxiety and depression” by his GP in December and quit his job at Staples office stationary suppliers.

Brown applied for government hand-outs but claims he has not received a penny of the £64.40 week unemployment benefit he is entitled to for the past six months.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said there had been ”misunderstandings” surrounding Brown’s application.

Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said Brown’s case highlights what is wrong with Britain’s benefit claims culture.

He said: “This is quite an extraordinary course of action to resort to in order to get the DWP to take notice.

”Leigh Brown’s case reflects the urgent need for reform of the welfare system.

”Offering benefits to someone suffering from pressure and stress at work may not always be the best course of action, and there needs to be more focus on helping people back to work.”

Brown defended his actions yesterday as a protest against a ”broken system”.

He said: ”The Jobcentre now owes me over £2,000 in back-payments.

”I am watching everything I have left just crumble in front of me, because the support I am entitled to won’t materialise.

”The system has broken. And this is the only thing I can do to hopefully make something happen.

”I feel I have no choice but to take this action as no one is listening to me.

”Over the last six months I have gone through every means to get attention but I can’t get any solution.

”All I get is put through to a call centre where the people have just been trained, or are in the process of being trained, and not giving me answers I need.”

Brown dropped out of university in October last year to take a 12 month break from studies.

He continued to work at Staples, in Mitcham’s Corner, in Cambridge, but visited his doctor in December in Cambridge seeking counselling.

Instead his GP signed him off work and diagnosed him with anxiety and depression.

He applied to his local Jobcentre for unemployment benefits armed with letters from the university and Student Loans company to prove he was no longer studying.

Brown, of Cambridge, said the Jobcentre sent him a letter on February 15 confirming he was entitled to £64.30 a week benefits.

He has not been paid a penny by either Jobcentre or Department for Work and Pensions.

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: ”We are very concerned to hear about this and are talking to Leigh Brown to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.”

Ian Duncan Smith, the new Secretary for Work and Pensions, slammed the Britain’s benefits system as ”broken” and ”bust” when he started the role in May.

He called for an overhaul of the system to make long-term unemployed do community work or risk their benefits being stopped.

Almost 14 per cent of Britain’s national income is spent on the welfare state and 1.4m people have been off work and on benefits in nine of the past ten years.

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